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The Next Space Unicorns Are On The Horizon

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

The global space market will continue to grow stratospherically. In 2021, it was estimated at $469 billion. In 2022, it grew to $546 billion, and according to a major report, by 2030, the industry will be worth $1.1 trillion.

Investors are also pouring more resources into the space sector than ever before. A recent Seraphim Space Index study revealed that in the last 12 months through August, investors committed nearly $6 billion to space technology.

Today, there are more space-related startups than ever before, and many companies are competing to open up unprecedented human access to space.

There are over 10,000 space-related companies worldwide, more than 5,000 significant investors, over 150 research and development hubs, and 130 governmental organizations in the industry, divided into three main subsectors. Those three are satellite manufacturing, support ground equipment manufacturing, including the launch industry, and downstream data sectors.

The space industry’s lift-off

The moon landing in the 1960s sparked significant interest in the sector, although it was short-lived as, for many, Apollo 11’s lunar landing in July of 1969 marked the gradual end of Space Race 1.0.

However, the truth is that the moon landing was the beginning of years of international cooperation and research to explore the universe. Following a 1990s and early 2000s downturn, the space industry has refueled its tanks, lit the rockets, and is ready for an entirely renewed liftoff.

Because space exploration means boldly going to where we have never been before, it brings great hope for scientific discoveries, positive life changes to humankind, and finding lives other than ours.

The stars are the limit

“There’s immense opportunity in the commercial space sector. It’s not just about rockets and satellites anymore,” said Space Aye (pronounced Eye) CEO Chris Newlands, suggesting that the limit is the stars and not the sky for this sector. 

Chris spoke at DLA Piper European Tech Summit 2023 in Dublin about the future of innovation involving space, more specifically, the use of AI and real-time satellite imagery combined with Internet of Things data. His talk captivated the audience, encouraging collaboration with Space Aye, and also inspired many to include space in their strategies going forward.

"Investments in space have the potential to bridge terrestrial gaps and can be immensely lucrative, given the global scope and the pioneering advantage. Space Aye, for example, thrives on this very potential as we give context to the $500bn pa Internet of Things (IoT) sector by merging that data with real-time satellite imagery. Someone recently referred to us as GIS on steroids," Newlands said.

The Space Aye CEO explained that his firm is building a unique platform that takes feeds from imaging satellites and reduces the 20-plus image formats into one-size-fits-all format while embedding the IoT data. 

“This allows developers to create the next generation of apps, powered by real-time satellite imagery, with human-focused solutions, for example, focused on the firefighter and the fire,” Newlands said. “This is evolutionary and builds on the smartphone model, which makes data easily understood and actionable by billions of people.”

Newlands added that experts have described Space Aye’s strategy “like the leap from radio to television” and added that “a real-time visual of your house, town, city, country or our planet has to be an improvement over maps.”

He continued: “Space Aye’s patents focus on location and device interoperability, as a real-time satellite image is only extremely useful if it is easily accessed and you are in the picture. Internet Of Things (IoT) merged with real-time satellite imagery helps identify survivors after natural disasters and locate lost children, pets, livestock, or assets in real-time from space.”

Andrew Sparrow of Lecote Space Lawyers.net stated, “Space Aye is not a product – what it can be is a fourth-dimension perspective on the world because it presents real-world data with a precision and utility such that it may be hard to imagine modern life without its augmentation.” 

For now, space investors are limited

Space Hero CEO Thomas Reemer suggested there’s a lot of room for new investors in the space industry, which he also described as: “Slow compared to others. It takes space technology from engineering, programming up into space, being launched, and working generally for a minimum of three to five years.”

Reemer said humankind has yet to understand how pervasive the space industry already is in their lives and gave the example that many people are still unaware that their smartphones have connectivity thanks to satellites. He blamed the space industry for that blissful ignorance and said Space Hero could help.

“We see Space Hero not only as generating more investment into the space entertainment sector but more investment into the space sector in general because it has been traditionally bad at promoting itself … Everybody is using a mobile phone connected to a satellite for connectivity, and people still don't understand how all of this hangs together,” he said. “Space Hero has always been the bridge that bridges the gap between public perception and the space industry, which is very much happening in an echo chamber.”

He reiterated that Space Hero is poised to significantly impact the space entertainment sector as well as the entire industry. Space Hero is the first global competition TV series where contestants play for a US$55-million, seven-day trip to space – the largest prize ever awarded on television. The competition for this once-in-a-lifetime journey will be open to anyone over 18 who speaks English. A jury of astronauts, scientists, and professional athletes will judge the competition, while global audiences will vote for their favorite finalists.

The TV series will have ten Space Villages worldwide featuring a massive space centre, sci-fi attractions, activities, and a sneak preview of a forward-looking technology that will stimulate the visitor’s imagination.

“Visitors to Space Village will experience what life could be in 30 years: sustainable, yet comfortable, healthy, and happy,” said Reemer. “We want to show our visitors a future that they can look forward to, using the endless possibilities our planet has to offer.”

Benefits of space exploration

Space-based technology is of value to farmers, agronomists, food manufacturers, and agricultural policymakers who wish to enhance production and profitability. As Newlands of Space Aye said, remote sensing satellites provide critical data for monitoring soil, snow cover, drought, and crop development.

Rainfall data from satellites help farmers plan the timing and amount of irrigation their crops need. Accurate assessments and information can also help predict a region's agricultural output well in advance and can be critical in anticipating and mitigating the effects of food shortages and famines.

Today, thanks to lower costs and increased access, the space sector is no longer exclusive to aerospace companies or public agencies with endless resources. It is, however, a place that can deliver many benefits to practically every business in the world, from pharmaceuticals to semiconductors, who are expanding their space capabilities, exploring new use cases, or piloting innovative applications.

“All this demonstrates that investors now see space as a frontier that we are on the cusp of exploiting and incorporating into global commerce, diplomacy, and human progress,” concluded Newlands.

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

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