The future of space: communal, commercial, contested

In Australia’s future, post-pandemic economy, our $5 billion and growing space sector will have a pivotal role to play in the nation’s economy.

According to KPMG’s new report, 30 Voices on 2030 – The Future of Space, every business will be a space business in 2030. It predicts by 2030, there will be people on the Moon, and we will be developing an extended presence in deep space. The benefits of space to our lives on Earth will be profound – whether through the development of medical transplants, unlocking the reasons for ageing or the management of global warming.

This global space industry is predicted to be worth US$600 billion by 2030, and Australia is well-positioned to gain from the boom. While the Australian Space Agency may be young, it’s making an impact on the global stage, signing agreements with the world’s leading space agencies and companies and attracting additional funding to the local sector. Australia as a nation has a long history in space, providing tracking support for the Apollo missions in the 1950s and 1960s and being an early sovereign satellite launcher.

There are three factors that demonstrate the potential of the sector for Australia. Firstly, space will be made far more accessible in the coming years; it’s likely that by 2030 you will know someone who has been to space.

Secondly, the use of space data will expand significantly and turn into a commodity, which will provide value across different industries – from emergency services to agriculture. And finally, the potential of medical research and manufacturing may well unlock breakthroughs many once thought impossible.

Many of today’s small start-ups, in Australia and globally, will be the sector leaders in 2030. Already many multi-national businesses are investing in the space sector, and understanding how it can add value to their business on Earth. By 2030 businesses across all industries will have dedicated space teams and resources. Expect space companies valued in the billions of dollars and operating across multiple countries. Global levels of cooperation will help enhance economic and political ties between nation states.

The space industry has undergone enormous transformation over the past decade. Ten year ago the sector was dominated by large government-led projects, with the idea of commercial space being little more than a theory. Now, we’re starting to see the “democratisation” of space, with businesses and citizens benefiting from the data, insights and services available, without necessarily owning and operating assets.

Australia has already shown leadership in the evolution of the space sector, for example in the use of space data which will expand significantly and turn into a commodity across industries. Images from space are such high resolution that in areas where population numbers are difficult to determine space imagery could have the solution. Australian start-ups such as nanosatellite provider Myriota are already pioneering space-connected IoT devices to monitor water, technology and people in remote areas.

Australia also has a role as a voice in the international community, pushing for a fair and sustainable space sector. There will be a need for a central international governing body to manage space data, and co-operation needed to face sustainability challenges: a moratorium on space debris and a recognition of the importance of the ecology of space for future generations.

In the past, space has perhaps been seen as an opportunity far in the future. However, the time to engage is now. If there is one thing we know about business, it’s that considered investment and active engagement with new markets trumps abstract considerations.

With the global space sector set to launch over the next decade, it’s time Australia looks to the stars to support our future economy. Stand still and you will miss your launch window.

Read the full report.

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