Investors to Double Down on Space Tech
With the arrival of private companies, the new global space race has become a billion-dollar industry. Companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin are the ones hitting the headlines, taking advantage of new technological innovations to make space travel accessible for private citizens with deep pockets.
However, behind every Elon Musk and Richard Branson, there is a booming ecosystem of scientists and entrepreneurs creating satellites, space technologies, global information systems, and any number of systems and services to support the space industry. Currently, the space industry represents $380 billion in global revenue, and Morgan Stanley has predicted that it will rise by 186% over the next two decades. By 2040, the space industry could be worth over $1 trillion.
What’s more, the space race is becoming part of our daily lives, as many of the technological innovations which were originally designed or developed for use in space have found practical applications in our daily lives.
One of the most significant developments to come from space tech is the rapid innovation in the field of photovoltaic cells (used in solar panels). Although their invention predates the current space race, NASA’s need to power space missions led them to share their own technology with private companies, accelerating its growth.
The space industry has a long history of kickstarting technologies that offer medical assistance or some type of human augmentation. Scratch-resistant lenses now widely in use, rely on a technology originally developed by NASA for protecting the helmets of astronauts. Artificial limbs, once awkward and uncomfortable, have seen huge improvements in their functionality and comfort thanks to the evolution of technology used in space vehicles.
Many of the most exciting developments are happening in relation to the booming satellite industry. 1,778 satellites and spacecraft were successfully launched into orbit in 2021 alone, carrying a range of telecommunications and observation technologies. With a number of companies utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning, the ecosystem is rich and diverse.
For instance, the SpaceSiC project from Paxis, an Israeli firm, has been developing ceramics for the creation of advanced and complex 3D objects to be used in satellites. The silicon carbide-based materials have incredibly high thermal stability and are therefore ideal for use in the space environment—but potential applications could include any extreme conditions.
Numerous companies are launching satellite ‘constellations,’ and NSLComm is one of the firms supporting this market. Their ‘pop-up’ antennae dramatically lowers the cost of launching satellites due to a reduction in payload. The antennae use broadband technology to reflect signals between satellites and receptors without the need for channelizer gateways to split the signal.
AYECKA is another firm developing communication systems, specifically Internet-based technologies. Designed to maintain continuous communication with unmanned vehicles, the applications in space are obvious, but there is also a myriad of potential uses for drones and other autonomous vehicles traveling to remote areas where cellular coverage isn’t available.
Medical technologies have also benefited from the space race over the past several decades. Equipment originally pioneered by NASA includes portable x-rays, wireless telemetry, and even something as simple as in-ear thermometers. Technology enabling robots which perform elements of surgical procedures were also invented as a direct result of work within the space sector.
When thinking about investing in space tech, the first decision to make is whether to invest in companies directly shuttling people into orbit or those ancillary companies.
The primary advantage of corporations within the space sector is that the stocks are not particularly crowded, therefore, the potential room for financial returns is large. This would be a long-term strategy, as it is likely to be some time before those large companies start to generate significant revenues. They are, however, in possession of enormous resources, and if this new space race mirrors the first one, competition will continue to drive innovations.
Over the short term, investing in space tech and associated services might be a quicker way to see a return on investment—although many of these companies are start-ups and riskier bets. However, technology companies involved in this new space race have one other benefit that may be appealing to some investors: new technologies designed for space could have a tangible positive impact on society right here on Earth.