What is the Value Chain of the Space Economy – A Quick Overview

OECD Definition of the Space Economy Value Chain

The following definitions are sourced from the OECD Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy, 2nd edition (2022).

The value chain of the space economy refers to the various activities and processes that are involved in creating and delivering products and services related to space. The space economy value chain consists of three segments:

The upstream segment representing the scientific and technological foundations of space programmes (e.g. science, R&D, manufacturing and launch).

The downstream segment representing the space infrastructure operations and “down-to-earth” products and services that directly rely on satellite data and signals to operate and function.

Activities that are derived/induced from space activities but are not dependent on it to function (e.g. technology transfers from the space sector to the automotive or medical sectors).

Some organisations are starting to use the “midstream” concept (between upstream and downstream) to categorise space and ground system operations and describe activities along the value chain. These activities constitute the link between satellites and terrestrial infrastructures. They may be categorised in either upstream or downstream activities depending on methodological choices.

Upstream Space Activities

These activities are considered the upstream segment and include the following categories:

  • Fundamental and applied research activities conducted at higher education institutions, public research organisations, and private and non-profit research organisations
  • Ancillary services such as finance, insurance and legal services and consultancies
  • Scientific and engineering support including the provision of research and development services, engineering services such as design and testing and similar activities
  • Supply of materials and components for space and ground systems, including both passive parts (cables, connectors, relays, etc.) and active parts (e.g. diodes, transistors, semiconductors)
  • Design and manufacture of space equipment and subsystems such as electronic and mechanic equipment and software for space and ground systems, as well as systems for spacecraft guidance, propulsion, power, communications, etc.
  • Integration and supply of full systems including complete satellites/orbital systems and launch vehicles (including launch services) as well as terrestrial systems such as control centres and telemetry, tracking and command stations

Downstream Space Activities

Downstream space activities comprise the provision of products and services that rely on satellite signals or data, aimed at consumer and business markets. Downstream activities include:

  • Space and ground systems operations: Satellite operations provide lease or sale of satellite capacity mainly for communications but also increasingly for earth observation. Ground systems constitute the link between satellites and terrestrial infrastructures with networks of ground stations at strategic positions (often polar or mid-latitude). Satellite operations firms may be active across the entire value chain, own their own satellites and ground stations for instance, and also provide products and services directly to customers.
  • Data distribution services: A growing number of companies provide cloud computing powered platforms or services simplifying the access, use and distribution of (mainly geospatial (GIS)) products.
  • Supply of devices and equipment supporting the consumer markets: Activities in this category include devices manufacturing (chipsets, terminals, global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment and other devices) and the development of software.
  • Supply of services supporting the consumer markets: Direct-to-home (DTH) provision (television, radio, broadband); positioning, navigation and timing services provision; provision of electro-optical imagery (telemetry, tracking and command services). Current applications include cartography and mapping; logistics and distribution; sales and marketing; surveillance and security; timing and precision work; and communications.
  • Supply of data added-value services: The processing of products and services from one or multiple data sources (satellite imagery/signals and in-situ observations, other sources of information) and transforming them into readily usable information. The same company may provide both raw and processed products and services. Many actors in this category do not consider themselves as space sector companies although their products depend on space signals or data.

Examples of Space Economy Value Chains from Different Organizations

Note that different organizations have slightly different takes on the space economy value chain and what activities are included. This is important to take into account when comparing published space economy size estimates between organizations.

Value Chain of the Australian Space Sector
Source: Australia Government
Value Chain of the Australian Space Sector
Source: Northern Sector Australia Government
Value Chain of the UK Space Sector
Source: UK Government
Value Chain of the New Zealand Space Economy
Source: Deloitte
Value Chain of the Space Economy
Source: PWC
Value Chain of The Space Economy
Source: Pierre Lionnet
Value Chain of the Space Economy
Source: RAND
Source: Frost and Sullivan
Earth Observation Value Chain
Source: PWC
Telecommunication Satellite Industry Value Chain
Source: ESA
Satellite Navigation Value Chain
Source: PWC
Satellite Communication Value Chain
Source: PWC
Value Chain for Lunar Transportation Market
Source: PWC
A Venture Capital View of the Space Economy Value Chain
Source: Seraphim