Technology

Investing in the Final Frontier: Advancing Sustainability through Space Innovation

Rendering of a space satellite orbiting Earth
Credit: Sasa Kadrijevic / stock.adobe.com

On July 20th 1969, Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” during the Apollo 11 mission, inspiring generations of innovators to explore the cosmos and the unlimited possibilities of human potential. Today, space exploration continues to guide how collective action can mitigate the effects of the climate crisis and enhance Earth’s sustainability capabilities through space-based science data development.

Already deeply embedded into all areas of daily life, remotely sensed data and other space technologies provide an in-depth understanding of Earth’s water cycles, changes in water quality, and other natural ecosystems supporting conservation and resource management As commercial investment increases in the space economy, the rise in commercial sustainability use cases aimed at advancing global sustainability holds great potential for supporting innovations in propulsion, manufacturing, and reusability, creating the possibility for shifting the manufacturing of the most polluting industries from Earth to space. The potential of the space economy to advance global sustainability is limitless, providing the in-depth space-based data needed to sustain continued global growth and consumption within biosphere limits.

In-Situ Resource Utilization: Lessons for Sustainable Resource Conservation on Earth

Estimated at $469 billion in 2021- up from over 60% a decade prior- the total global space economy is expected to continue to grow by $1.1 trillion by 2030. Prior to the impressive momentum of the space sector, in the U.S. alone the space economy accounted for more than $125 billion of real GDP output (0.6 per cent of total U.S. GDP) and 355,000 private sector jobs. Organizations such as NASA and the European Space Agency carefully monitor the changes in the biosphere with over 150 satellites that orbit around the planet assisting researchers such as those at the NASA Glenn Research Center to develop innovative sustainable solutions for the numerous challenges presented by surviving, and thriving, in a resource-limited non-terrestrial space environment. NASA’s research on the study of air quality, utilizing ground sensors, has assisted in creating a vast global database that reveals the various causes and subsequent impacts of greenhouse gas air pollution.

In-situ resource Utilization, which is the common practice of storing and processing non-terrestrial resources found or manufactured on other astronomical objects such as the Moon, Mars, and other asteroids that seek to replace resources that would have been otherwise transferred from Earth, has spurred the development of a future in which it may possible to provide low cost and high-quality manufacturing for the most polluting of earth’s industries in a space environment. Since the solar system can support a billion times greater industry than we have on Earth, and asteroids contain a myriad of scarce precious metals, space is well-suited to find solutions for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions emitted from heavy manufacturing processes that dominate the global economy.

Access to these non-terrestrial precious metals will be crucial since the energy demand from computers is undergoing such rapid growth that it could outpace the Earth’s power by 2040. Raw materials for solar panels and wind turbines could also be affected by diminishing amounts of available precious metals. With the accelerated pace of space economy innovation and exploration, notably by companies such as Tesla’s Space X and Starlink initiatives, In-Situ Resource Utilization provides an excellent blueprint and framework of how Earth’s resources could be efficiently reproduced in the hope of reducing the environmental impact of resource extraction on earth.

Actionable Insights: A Sustainable Investment Approach to the Final Frontier

Satellite technology and space exploration could be the key to finding space-based solutions to climate change, offering a new possibility frontier for investors to harness the upside potential of the growing space economy. The following actionable insights could enable investors to incorporate a more thorough integration of the intersection of the space economy and sustainability considerations within a well-diversified portfolio.

Space Biotechnology for Sustainable Agriculture:

Perform due diligence in companies pioneering space biotechnology solutions for earth-based sustainable agriculture. Using space-based research, these companies utilize advanced fertilizers, and eco-friendly pest control methods to develop resilient crops and support food security and environmentally friendly farming practices.

Space-Based Climate Monitoring:

Invest in companies providing space technology solutions for Earth's climate monitoring which leverage satellites to gather essential data on climate change, weather patterns, and environmental shifts. By supporting these firms, you can contribute to mitigating climate change and gain insights into sustainable investment opportunities enhanced by climate data.

Space-Based Connectivity for Underserved Regions:

Support investments in companies working on providing internet connectivity to remote and underserved regions using satellite technology. By actively investing in space-based connectivity, it not only bridges the digital divide but also enables sustainable development in areas where traditional infrastructure is lacking.

The space industry is dynamic and is consistently influenced by regulatory changes, technological advancements, and market fluctuations. Therefore, investments in this sector should be made with careful consideration of individual risk tolerance and long-term financial goals.

Interstellar Sustainability: The Space Economy’s Role in Global Environmental Awareness

54 years ago, the world celebrated the first man on the moon and the progress this incredible achievement represented for the advancement of humankind. Today, we are at another pivotal moment in history where investors can tap into the unlimited abundance of space-based solar power, asteroid mining, and in-orbit manufacturing to help shape the future of Earth’s sustainable development evolution. As the sector develops, space exploration could become a central tenant of sustainable investing, providing the data clarity and transparency needed to drive a new era of space-based sustainable investing.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Aisha Williams

Entrepreneur, futurist, and sustainability activist, Aisha is dedicated to reimagining the future of impact and sustainability as the Founder and CEO of ImpactVest. Recognized as a prominent emerging asset management firm and a member of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, ImpactVest is committed to a mission that drives positive change.

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