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The economics of space

Transforming life on earth

The commercial dynamics of Space are changing

Space as an idea fascinates people, but few believe it will affect their lives or businesses in a tangible way. However, there are emerging trends that mean space has something to offer virtually every industry. In this paper we focus on three domains where space-based services are starting to offer tangible value for businesses, societies and consumers, namely: agriculture, consumer connectivity and climate change.
 

Why now: trends that are accelerating access to Space technology

Barriers to manufacturing and launching satellites have reduced significantly. Satellites have been ‘miniaturised’, costing less to produce and operate than larger predecessors. Launch costs are lower, thanks to reusable rocketry and providers offering innovative services such as payload ride sharing. Accelerating these developments, digital technology enables third parties to access satellite operators’ databases and explore potential business applications through cloud hosting and API architectures. Combined, the ecosystem and infrastructure for a new industry of Space-enabled services is emerging. 
 

Use case 1: Securing a sustainable, global food supply

The global population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. The impacts of climate change – higher temperatures, extreme weather, and drought – are putting significant pressure on quality and quantity of our food supplies. The three main aspects of satellite technology – Earth observation, satellite connectivity, and real-time kinematics – enable a range of use cases to improve yields and secure food supplies. Additionally, the application of satellite technology can lower the environmental impact of farming through more precise administration of water and herbicides.
 

Use case 2: Connecting the world’s unconnected

Nearly 50 per cent of the global population do not currently have access to the internet, with billions of people lacking access to basic public services, such as healthcare and education. Estimates show that providing connectivity to rural parts of Africa, Latam and Asia may drive a 25 per cent increase in productivity and create 140 million jobs. However, traditional infrastructure in the form of fibre cabling and cellular towers is challenging as well as expensive to deploy in such areas. Yet, thanks to a new generation of low Earth orbiting (LEO) small satellites, internet beamed from space could soon offer a solution.

Use case 3: Adapting to climate change and dealing with natural disasters

There is mounting urgency for governments to help societies more effectively adapt to climate change and natural disasters. Space offers a compelling platform to aid international efforts. Earth observation satellites capture granular surface and atmospheric data from across the world every 24 hours, which, when processed by computer vision and cognitive analytics, can drive a step-change in our understanding of causes and trends, and in turn improve our collective responses.

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