The Hype Cycle is a branded graphical presentation developed by Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm, to represent the maturity, adoption, and social application of specific technologies. The key concept underlying the Hype Cycle is that technology innovations undergo a predictable pattern from inception to maturity and widespread application.
This cycle includes five distinct stages: the “Innovation Trigger,” where a technology breakthrough kicks things off; the “Peak of Inflated Expectations,” where early publicity generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic predictions; the “Trough of Disillusionment,” where the technology fails to meet expectations and becomes unfashionable; the “Slope of Enlightenment,” where businesses start to understand and employ the technology more effectively; and the “Plateau of Productivity,” where the benefits of the technology become widely demonstrated and accepted.
Relevance of the Hype Cycle to the Space Economy
The Gartner Hype Cycle can be an important tool in assessing the development of technologies within the space economy. The space economy encompasses the wide array of activities related to space exploration and exploitation, including satellite services, ground equipment manufacturing, space vehicle manufacturing, space launch services, and the broad spectrum of supporting sectors.
The ability of stakeholders to understand where a particular technology lies on the Hype Cycle can significantly impact investment decisions, government policies, and strategic planning. For instance, knowing whether a technology is at the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ may suggest that caution is needed, while a technology on the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ may signal a more mature and stable investment.
Application of Gartner’s Hype Cycle in the Space Economy
Take for example, space tourism, a significant aspect of the emerging space economy. Companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic have garnered substantial public attention. However, it’s quite possible that space tourism is still at the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ or perhaps has entered the ‘Trough of Disillusionment.’ While there have been successful missions and technological breakthroughs, commercial viability is still in question and mass-market access remains a distant reality.
On the other hand, the use of satellites for global communication networks, an important area of the space economy, may be positioned more towards the ‘Plateau of Productivity.’ With companies like SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper launching thousands of satellites for global broadband coverage, the technology has shown its value and is being applied more broadly, though it still faces important challenges.
Terrawatch maintains and publishes a hypecycle for Earth observation technology which is shown below.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle can serve as an important tool in the analysis and understanding of the space economy. By applying this model, stakeholders can better anticipate the trajectory of emerging technologies, make more informed decisions, and potentially avoid the pitfalls of hype and unrealistic expectations.