Space Economy

The Space Economy is the activities and enjoyment of resources that create value and benefits for humans in the course of exploration, research, understanding, management and use of space. The OECD Space Forum provides a definition of the global space economy that includes the main activities of the space industry in space production and satellite operations and other consumer activities that have been derived over the years from R&D governmental. It includes all public and private factors involved in the development, provision and use of space-related products and services, as well as scientific knowledge derived from space research.

Special Features of Space Economy

The space industry has distinctive features such as the use of cutting-edge technologies and longer terms for both project development and return on investment. This is a sector dominated mainly by governments, as access to space has so far been expensive, entails technical risks and the feasibility of space-enabled services requires large user markets. The link with defense has been deeply entrenched since the beginning of the space age, as during the Cold War space activities were also an instrument of political and military confrontation between the US and the USSR. Nowadays, despite the growing importance of the commercial space sector, the use of space for defense purposes remains prominent thanks also to space technologies that have both civil and military applications such as weather forecast, which can also be used for early warning, remote sensing, with its applications in intelligence and global navigation, a precision pointing system.

The main customers of space-related products and services are still governments, which invest in a wide range of activities because of the value of space for strategic, economic goals and national prestige. Space production depends in particular on civil and military institutional investments. The traditional massive involvement of public actors in space can be explained by the particular characteristics of this sector, whose complexity and economic parameters could sometimes discourage the private sector. In fact, a profit-maximizing firm will likely invest and establish an efficient and profitable business model targeting a lucrative segment of the market, while a government could turn to other results that do not depend on profitability. However, the growing number of private actors currently engaged in space activities is gradually bringing about a change in the traditional roles of the public and private sector.


Today, however, we are witnessing an increasingly consistent entry of private individuals into the world of space and the birth of a sector among the most dynamic and promising: that of the “new space economy“, a phenomenon that largely coincides with the ‘privatization’ of space. Initially an object of interest for the public scientific and military sector, it is now subject to an ambitious intervention by private investors and the entry of venture capital, a great innovation compared to the past. Among the most ambitious entrepreneurs in the world are certainly Elon Musk, co-founder and head of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and founder of Space X (launch of large satellites, with human flight intentions), Jeff Bezos owner of Amazon and founder of Blue Origin (large rockets, in perspective with crew) and Richard Branson, prophet of space tourism with Virgin Galactic. But even the big four, namely Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, are investing more and more in the industry.

The “new space economy” includes several economic sectors related to exploration and everything related to technologies, applications, products and services that arise from the space field and that can have different uses in everyday life. Generally the spatial economy is divided into three segments: upstream, midstream and downstream.

Upstream refers to the “space” business: satellites, manufacturing and building components for satellites, launchers, and other spacecraft.

The midstream, instead, is the set of all the functional infrastructures to reach it: launch platforms, control centers and so on.