Report: Commercial Space Capabilities and Market Overview (RAND, 2022)

Source: RAND


As the commercial space industry continues to grow in capability, capacity, and diversity, opportunities for the U.S. Space Force (USSF) and the U.S. Department of Defense to leverage commercial space capabilities are expanding. In this review of commercial space capabilities that could support the USSF’s future space architecture and innovation ecosystem, the authors characterize capabilities and trends in the commercial market through mid-2020.

Research Questions

  • What commercial space capabilities could the USSF and DoD leverage to achieve their policy goals?
  • For which military applications could they use commercial space capabilities?
  • What are the current and future development trends in the commercial space industry?
  • What concerns might the USSF and DoD need to address when leveraging commercial space capabilities for military purposes?

Key Findings

  • The commercial space industry is quickly growing and changing.
  • More-established commercial space sectors (e.g., satellite communications and space launch) are growing in capacity and capability.
  • The growth and evolution of new market entrants have been driven by small satellite technologies and the proliferated constellation model, advanced manufacturing, use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and venture capital investments.
  • Among the new commercial space sectors, some will serve other commercial space operators, while other new space sectors will primarily target government customers.


  • It is important for DoD and other stakeholders to update their information about the space industry at least annually.
  • DoD and other stakeholders should track several technology-development and commercial-viability factors going forward, because these will have significant impacts on the benefits associated with future partnerships.