Space Economy – Building up our Future

Space Economy – Building up our Future

Welcome everyone! Today I’ll try to bring you with me in a journey towards a desirable future, where we all consider space as a global common, to benefit from right now and at the same time, to be maintained accessible for future generations. We are going to become a space dominated society, and in reality, we already are. I’ll do it through some questions and answer. Let’s start.

First three questions fall into the category: A desirable future

1. How could a desirable future regarding the Space Economy in 30 years be described?

Space Economy, both Space for space and space for earth, is a powerful driver for sustainable development on Earth. Space assets in fact cannot be replicated by any other technology in many fields. Studies tell us that around 40% of all the Sustainable Development Goals targets benefit greatly from GNSS and Earth Observation. With SatComs we are well above 50%. And looking at the climate crisis, more than half of the Essential Climate Variables can only be monitored reliably, precisely and consistently from space, while up to 90% of numerical weather models rely on satellite measurements. The value of the sector itself is at about $470 billion, with a prospect to go into trillions by 2050. This brings us to a main conclusion: space assets fuel the global economy, if we consider that in some advanced economies it is estimated that satellites underpin as much as 15-20% of the national GDP.
Space is everywhere, saving lives and property, playing a significant role in disaster risk management, by monitoring weather and its indicators, and by mapping to identify the most affected areas and destroyed infrastructures.
In 2050, I would love to see that we have reached net zero and that the planet is safe. Space is a tool to save humanity but the time to act is now.

2. what would be the favourable future conditions that will make this possible?

Simply put, we need to develop a space ecosystem able to explore and use space sustainably. This means developing activities now in such a way that we don’t impede future efforts. According to the Long-term sustainability guidelines, approved by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in June 2019, we have to “maintain the conduct of space activities indefinitely into the future in a manner that realises the objectives of equitable access to outer space for peaceful purposes, in order to meet the needs of the present generations while preserving the outer space environment for future generations”.
Maintaining a safe, secure and sustainable outer space environment is mandatory to develop a commercial safe space. As a consequence, space economy will flourish if we, collectively, will be able to coordinate space traffic and exercise governance on a global base. The United Nations are fully equipped to be at the center of this process, and the UN Secretary General is calling for a Summit of the Future, to be held in September 2024, where space traffic management and global governance are part of the mainstream. In this respect we have to keep in mind that the LTS guidelines frame the necessity to step up along five lines: proliferation of space debris, increasing complexity in space operations, large constellations, increased risk of collisions, interference with space operations. However it is difficult to pin down exactly all the parameters that would guide us, the space community collectively, in doing things differently that what we do today. Space exploration and use is a highly complex endeavour but we need to find a simple recipe for a global governance regime. We have to act with a responsible approach and we must think ahead of time.

3. Which stakeholders will be able to collaborate to achieve this goal?

Preserving space is a collective effort because the action of one actor influences everyone else. We, the space community, should strive to encourage multilateral connections, partnerships and exchange of good practices. It is imperative to gather all actors to ensure that all voices are heard in developing new ‘rules of the orbit’. The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful uses of Outer space reached 100 members, showing an increasing and stronger diplomatic interest and investment of political capital. Everyone must be heard, namely space agencies, private sector, academia, research centres, NGOs and civil society in general, and we have to stimulate non space user communities to became part of the conversation.

Next three questions deal with which issues we have: If things go wrong

4. what are the most pressing issues regarding the future of the space economy?

Space economy is not only a label, it is not only a new way of describing the space sector, it is indeed a revolution. Increasingly, space technologies, developed for space missions, are then used for improving the quality of life on Earth, and we cannot live our lives without space anymore. On a global scale, we witness a skyrocketing request of broadband services, which are and will be even more provided thanks to megaconstellations. At the same time, the flourishing of space activities, services and applications is allowing the collection of a huge amount of data, the new ‘oil’ of the future, which will have to be analyzed also taking advantage of other emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence. Space economy will also expand beyond LEO, and GEO, targeting the Moon, Mars, and asteroids.
It will open a completely new scenario, it will be a game changer. We need to be ready for this challenge, coupling long-term sustainability of space activities and space activities as an accelerator for a socio-economic sustainable development on Earth. This goal will be impossible to achieve without a global governance regime and space traffic coordination, because the more space activities and missions increase, the more risks we will have to face. And we do need international cooperation, and full transparency of all space activities. Without all these ingredients, we may face serious issues.

5. What would be a possible undesirable future regarding the Space Economy in 30 years (around 2050)?

The undesirable future for Space economy in 2050: multilateralism failed, non existence of space traffic coordination and orbits around the Earth congested and contested. The Moon colonized in a non responsible manner, space resources cannibalized and not used for the benefit of all. The social tension will escalate as a result, and space will become an additional reason for conflicts.

6. What could we do to prevent such an undesirable future?

We must aim at increasing awareness in treating space as a public good and a global commons, building a shareholder rather than a stakeholder space economy. Through the implementation of existing normative framework, we should work to turn policy tools such as the Space Debris mitigation guidelines and the LTS guidelines into actions. And in defining the rules for space traffic coordination, we should look at multilateral sharing of space situational/domain awareness information to improve safety and sustainability, as well as to international mechanisms for notifications, coupled with an enhanced registration set of practices to cope with the exponential growth of space objects. I hear sometimes that the growing number of active satellites is raised as a concern. Well, we cannot simply stop launching, rather, we need to launch responsibly.

Let’s conclude with the last three questions on :Directions of the developments

7. Can the exploration of the Moon be considered as a laboratory for peace?

Space exploration, and in particular Moon exploration, may trigger an increase in autonomy of participating states, which also aims at increasing international cooperation. It is what I call ‘autonomy for cooperation’, with the understanding that a cooperation is more successful if the partners are skilled and balanced in their contributions. Other areas are extremely important for a common positive development of outer space affairs. Focus should be on space traffic coordination and global governance, with the goal of creating a single entity in charge of space at multilateral level, lunar and solar system exploration, with the goal to develop a new paradigm for humanity, and space economy, as the backbone of the economies of the future. Space as a tool for improving the quality of life on Earth should also be a priority, in supporting smart agriculture, quality education, climate action, smart cities, i.e. in supporting the 17 Sustainable Developments Goals as indicated in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and contributing to efforts for a socio-economic sustainable development process beyond 2030. Space should be considered a tool for shaping our future in a more inclusive and peaceful manner. There are not borders or fences on the Moon, let’s try to develop a new social international system. Now.

8. What about the relations between the European Union and the other economic powers (China, USA, Russia, or others)?

I am a strong advocate of international cooperation in space activities, and I feel that space diplomacy is so important nowadays that we should even strengthen multilateral approach to space activities. As humanity, we should go, work and live beyond the Earth’s limits all together, and contribute to the advancement of our society collectively. Also, involvement of developing and emerging countries with the aim of increasing their capacities and knowledge in space activities, starting with the entry level of using space based data for services and applications and then moving to the next level, hands-on experiences in developing space hardware, is a key factor towards a better world.

9. what about the most likely direction of developments in the space economy?

Space economy is the skeleton of a modern economy, the economy of the 21st century. Private sector can benefit now of mature technologies developed thanks to public investments made by governments. One thing is clear: without a predictable and sustainable space environment, we can forget about developing a stable space economy. Let’s work on the short term looking at the long term goals at the same time. This implies also integrating space technologies with new technologies such as AI, robotics, biotech, etc and at the same time, applying space technologies to so many different fields, such us AgriTech, EduTech, CleanTech, and counting. Bottom line, Space economy is building up the economy of the future.


Sign in for the newsletter!