Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX, failed to launch, Starship, the world’s largest and most powerful rocket system, which was scheduled for take off today (17th April, 2023).
Starship’s inaugural foray into space was halted due to a pressurisation issue in the first stage of the rocket. SpaceX executives said the exercise was, nevertheless, useful for data collection and that another launch would not take place for at least another 48 hours.
Starship is a super heavy-lift, 119m tall, launch vehicle – the tallest and most powerful launch vehicle ever built and the first intended to be fully reusable. The rocket is designed to eventually transport astronauts to the moon and to Mars with capacity for up to 100 passengers.
SpaceX was founded by Musk in 2002 with a mission to provide accessible space transportation to enable the colonisation of Mars and Musk’s vision of humans as an interplanetary species.
According to analyst GlobalData, the space economy will be worth over $1tn by 2040. The analyst predicts that technological advancements in space solar cells, network latency, and, notably, reusable launches will stimulate real growth in the space economy market.
SpaceX is amongst a number of competitors betting on the future profitability of the space economy. These include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and US aerospace company Lockheed Martin.
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The construction of space stations, space tourism, and mining projects in space will make up a significant amount of commercial space activity by 2030.
Amin Chabi, is CEO and founder of UK based spacetech company, Lúnasa, which is developing a reusable satellite servicing vehicle for in-space transportation and satellite services. Chabi’s company is just one example of an ecosystem of start-ups developing within the space economy. Chabi notes that tens of thousands of satellites are preparing to be launched over the next decade which presents a growth opportunity for the space economy.
Evidence of a growing space ecosystem includes financial data from GlobalData that found venture capital deal volume increased by over half in 2022.
Bianca Cefalo, CEO and co-founder of UK based Space DOTS says a thriving space economy is viable if the status quo of the industry is challenged. "For instance, the 60% failure rate of satellites is simply unacceptable," according to Cefalo who believes the solution includes assets becoming more robust.
"Testing advanced materials will play an indispensable role in building a circular economy in space, enabling sustainable development of manufacturing launch materials while clearing up space debris," said Cefalo.