The Booming Space Industry - An Outsider's Perspective
The space industry is continuing its rapid expansion into an ever-increasingly robust and thriving sector of both the US and the global economy. The quintessential "space race" started in the 1950s as the focused, government-based R&D innovation niche of launching satellites and rockets for exploration driven by the geo-political space race between the United States and the then Soviet Russians.
Over the decades, the space industry has grown and evolved into what is now a fully-fledged commercial industry that is expanding beyond satellite communications into tourism, in-space satellite assembly/repairs and beyond. Simultaneously, our government-led space missions have expanded beyond manned GEO and cislunar exploration into a geo-political arena of national security interests.
As a newcomer to the space industry, it’s exciting to be a part of this booming industry. Having come from business development and sales in the technology industries of Hybrid IT, Cloud, and Managed Services, my networking and selling expertise from other industries is certainly transferable, but there is still a learning curve for those of us who are jumping into the space industry.
Here are a few of my observations so far.
1. Far from mature, much of the technology for space is literally being invented as we go. Like any high-tech industry, we are building on both previous successes and failures, while applying the newest technologies and best practices from other rapidly-evolving tech industries into the space arena. Taking AI, AR, NFTs, Blockchain, and more into space is truly a next level application for these rapidly emerging technologies and will further push the envelope of their capabilities.
2. The stakes are much higher because any mission into space, be it unmanned or manned, is inherently much more dangerous and far more expensive. No matter how many sci-fi movies you’ve seen, it’s hard for any of us to fully comprehend how much more risky and dangerous everything is in space. Unlike installing or repairing equipment here on earth, there is zero room for error in space. This makes everything we do for and in space exponentially more complex requiring many more degrees of precision and accuracy – resulting in a higher price tag for every aspect of what we do.
3. New space companies are popping up daily and not all will succeed. As an industry, we have to sort through companies that bring the great ideas, the talent, the expertise, the funding, and the implementable solutions vs the companies with little more than a cool idea and a fancy website. According to the May 2021 issue of Forbes Magazine, the U.S. now has 5,582 space-focused companies, almost ten times more than the next country, the UK, which has 615. Those numbers have most certainly grown since May as Minerva Space Technologies was launched in October 2021 and we are not alone newly entering into this burgeoning, high-growth industry.
4. Pretty much everyone with actual hands-on space experience is former military, has a NASA background, or is a literal rocket scientist – some really smart, accomplished, innovative people with space pedigrees that would impress Captain Kirk. The good news is that these people are surrounding themselves with talented players from other high-tech industries, expanding their teams beyond the confines of the space industry. The new talent coming onboard to the space industry also brings extensive knowledge on how to apply next generation technologies to the landscape of space and fresh perspectives to solve complex problems.
This is a very exciting time to become a part of the space industry. While there is a lot for all of us newcomers to learn, we also have much to bring to the table for those of us ready to roll up our sleeves and put on our thinking caps to look beyond what has been done before.