A Not So Giant Leap: The Trillion-Dollar Space Economy

The space ecosystem is growing at an exponential rate and projected to reach $1 trillion by the year 2040. As the demand for innovation and supplies increases, the supply chain and workforce begin to feel the pressure of a rising space economy. What are the major cost drivers for the ambitious projects planned by startups and by major corporations? What type of partnerships will deliver success? How do governments purchase services in new ways? Which investment approaches will deliver the desired ROI? What have we learned from commercial ventures so far?

AIAA will convene more than 2,000 people to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities of the expanding space economy during 2023 ASCEND. Set to take place 23–25 October in Las Vegas, this event will feature collaboration and knowledge exchange, igniting the brightest sparks of imagination to envision, design, and construct the future of space commerce in low Earth orbit and cislunar space.

Join the conversation among leaders, innovators, and policymakers during 2023 ASCEND, 23–25 October, Caesars Forum, Las Vegas. Register now.


Members of the 2023 ASCEND Guiding Coalition and other industry leaders recently shared their views on the challenges and opportunities as we leap toward a $1 trillion space economy. Hear more from these luminaries in their video interviews, available to watch on the ASCEND website.

Kara Cunzeman

Lead Futurist for Strategic Foresight, The Aerospace Corporation; ASCEND Guiding Coalition

We are building the foundation for infrastructure in getting beyond low Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit. It’s opening up an aperture for a whole wide range of services that we don’t have today like asteroid mining, off-world tourism, and research and development that doesn’t exist today.
We’re really starting to see the dawn of a new age of human spaceflight. It is not driven primarily by governments, but rather by citizen scientists, the private sector, and students. There’s a whole new avenue for space exploration that lies outside of the traditional lanes we’ve been looking at for the last 60 years.

Joe Landon

CEO, Crescent Space; ASCEND Guiding Coalition

A lot of the work and a lot of the missions that have gone to space historically have been “space for Earth.” There are missions that help us communicate on Earth, help us observe the Earth, and measure the climate and other parts of life around us here.
What’s growing, and I think a big opportunity, is “space for space” as well. Not only can we go out and learn and explore and help ourselves on Earth, but we can start to develop an economy in space that doesn’t rely fully on Earth. It’s one where we’re building things in space, we’re exchanging goods in space, and we’re building communities and opportunities to do business.

Clare Martin

Executive Vice President, Astroscale U.S.; ASCEND Guiding Coalition

I wonder how many people really, truly understand how vital space is to their everyday life. It is used for financial transactions, weather forecasting, making sure we can find the restaurant to meet friends for dinner tomorrow, using the map on our phone.
If we put a sustainable space economy in place, then what we will see is many more applications in day-to-day life. We may not even be able to appreciate what that could be right now.

John Shannon

Vice President, Boeing Exploration Systems

We are seeing a return in space activities. As we get better, as we get more innovative, and as we have new companies enter that have a diversity of thought, then we’re going to end up having additional applications that you and I can’t even think about right now. Those will end up driving the space economy and it will be a bigger and bigger piece of the overall economy.

Hemali Vyas

Flight Project Support Office, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; ASCEND Collaborative Program
Deputy Chair; AIAA Economics Outreach Committee Chair; AIAA San Gabriel Valley Section Chair

We really want to focus on the supply chain aspect for the Earth-based applications because as we grow, given the supply chain constraints that we have, how do we address that? Whether it’s parts, whether it’s workforce, whether it’s education – they are all related aspects of supply chain. So if you really want to grow exponentially in the space domain, can we do that? The supply chain supports that.

A Not So Giant Leap: The Trillion-Dollar Space Economy