Report: xTech Futures: SpaceTech (Deloitte 2023)

Source: Deloitte

Source: Deloitte press release

NEW YORK, June 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ —

Key takeaways

  • The first of several reports in Deloitte’s upcoming “xTech Futures” series positions SpaceTech as one of many “xTech” domains — exponential technologies that may seem inapplicable to businesses today but prove to become table stakes for future business strategies.
  • The report helps organizations identify their role in the space economy through the lens of three chapters — opportunities “Here” on Earth, “Near” in Earth’s orbits, and out “There” in deep space.
  • Space has never been more accessible than it is today; its untapped potential to drive business advantage is palpable; and companies need to consider how they can unlock opportunities in the space economy.

Why this matters 
Space is no longer the exclusive domain of government agencies and private space companies. That means organizations across a wide range of industries — transportation, finance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, research and communications, among others — that have never been viewed as space pioneers, are teed up for opportunities and disruption. Just within low Earth orbit (LEO) alone we could see an eightfold increase in today’s economic value by 2035 with the right investment and incentivization, according to Deloitte research. In the same way that information technology has powered business growth for decades, space technology and other xTech domains promise to propel the next generation of business value. Simply put, billions have been made by 20thcentury-pioneers who helped their customers realize value from InfoTech; 21stcentury-pioneers will help their customers realize trillions in value from xTech.

Deloitte’s SpaceTech report is the inaugural issue of its “xTech Futures” series, which focuses on new and exponential technologies. The report spotlights the untapped potential for companies in all industries to play a role in the space economy, while cautioning that ethics must be a core tenet of innovation to avoid the exploration pitfalls of Earth’s past. For business leaders, it begs the question “how will my organization leverage space technology” rather than “will my organization leverage space technology?” To help organizations understand potential business opportunities, the SpaceTech report is structured into three approachable chapters:

  • HERE (on Earth) highlights how developments in launch vehicles and spaceports are lowering barriers to entry and democratizing access to space.
  • NEAR (in Earth’s major orbits) considers the flourishing ecosystem of satellites, space stations, and services in Earth’s major orbits that is primed for future expansion.
  • THERE (in deep space) explores the far frontiers of deep space and its potential for significant scientific advances, economic activity and natural resources.

Deloitte SpaceTech report highlights

HERE (on Earth):

As-a-service business models have democratized IT — and soon they’ll transform how organizations think about space launch and exploration. Basic rocket function hasn’t changed much, but activities related to launch vehicles and spaceport development have made space more accessible than ever before.

Launch activity and spaceports bring jobs, drive revenue

Dramatic and ongoing reductions in rocket launch costs are creating a vibrant new ecosystem of commercial activity that includes launch vehicles and spaceport infrastructure that serve as gateways to space. State and local governments that establish spaceport infrastructure in the years ahead may enjoy first-mover advantage, establishing their regions as expertise hubs and earning a share of the billions of dollars being invested in the space economy. And as infrastructure in space scales up, private companies can either capitalize on or leverage the benefits of that expansion.

NEAR (in Earth’s major orbits): 

Globalization has defined this generation’s economy. The post-global economy — beyond the globe itself — will introduce new business models and spark the adaptation of current ones in response to exciting new possibilities within all of Earth’s orbits, especially low Earth orbit (LEO, below 1,200 miles from Earth).

Harnessing satellites to benefit life on Earth, while keeping Earth’s orbits clean

Satellites across Earth’s orbits solve business use cases that require precise location, exact timing, and/or enhanced connectivity and imaging. In fact, more satellites were launched in 2020 than in the prior 20 years combined. Opportunities exist in three primary areas:

Satellite communications that extend internet access to businesses and consumers.

Satellite navigation that enables precise location and timing across industries, from remotely guided mining machinery and autonomous vehicles to time-stamped financial transactions.

Earth observation (EO) and remote sensing that provide high-quality images of the Earth for use in applications such as supply chain, real-time precision tracking, navigation, traffic, weather, pollution, disease-spread, agriculture and even mining.

However, these opportunities are also the biggest threat to the space economy — the risk of collision for debris, satellites and space junk, is increasing. Growing amounts of debris in orbit may be the biggest single threat to the space economy and tracking and predicting the movement of objects in orbit is critical. Tech companies have a major opportunity to provide these solutions to the space industry.

Commercial space stations will enable new opportunities for manufacturing, working and traveling in space 

Commercial space stations have the potential to become hubs for space tourism, operations, research and manufacturing. The next generation of space stations could offer rentable spaces, advanced robotics, and a host of R&D and manufacturing resources.

The environmental conditions of space could allow companies to experiment and manufacture in new ways. Properties found uniquely in space could enable greater precision in R&D and manufacturing, from semiconductors and fiber optic cables to pharmaceuticals, human organs and stem cells.

Growth in space tourism will likely grow over time — and may accelerate in the future — as commercial companies benefit from economies of scale. Deloitte estimates an increase in space tourism that will reach an annual market valuation between $1.8 billion and $3.3 billion by 2035.

THERE (in deep space):

While still solidly in its infancy, deep space exploration is both fraught with uncertainty and teeming with potential. Those nations able to crack the challenges that come along with long-duration space travel — and private companies that support or even lead their own missions — stand to reap substantial rewards in terms of scientific advances, economic activity and potentially valuable natural resources.

Deep space is the next frontier — and the Moon may become basecamp, or even home

National space agencies, and some private companies, are already testing technologies to support human exploration of deep space, including a sustained human presence on the Moon. A lunar base could serve as a “basecamp” for further deep space exploration and long-term settlements. Beyond the Moon, exploration of Mars awaits. Overcoming environmental and logistical challenges and maintaining human self-sufficiency will be critical to the success of such efforts.

Cracking the code to sustainably mining space resources

Mining space resources could help establish a sustained human presence in space and help replenish Earth resources.

Compounds in lunar regolith and asteroids could be used to fuel spacecraft heading on deeper space missions, eliminating the need to carry a full mission’s worth of fuel all the way from Earth.

The Moon is rich in deposits of valuable resources like helium-3, which could one day power safe, clean, nuclear fusion reactors. It also holds substantial deposits of rare Earth minerals important to the electrification of our transportation systems, as well as titanium and aluminum.

But the real opportunity, though it’s many years away, may reside on asteroids in deep space. The potential value in materials concentrated in asteroids is so tremendous that mining for it could fundamentally disrupt materials markets here on Earth. Many asteroids hold major deposits of rare Earth metals, which are vital inputs across manufacturing, particularly for electronics and batteries.

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