It’s a phrase uttered by old-timers, newcomers, entrepreneurs and government officials in the space industry, but what does it mean? Does it refer to people living and working in space, or to today’s construction of satellites and rockets on Earth? Is mining asteroids part of the plan? How about orbiting hotels? Debra Werner asked five space luminaries to elaborate on what “building the space economy” means to them.
The push to expand Earth’s economy into space has prompted NASA to pump millions of dollars into the old idea of establishing propellant depots in Earth orbit for satellites or passenger transports and cargo tugs headed for deep space. Jon Kelvey looks at the reasons for the renewed interest — and the hurdles ahead.
In-space manufacturing is reaching a crucial point. Dozens of companies are now developing technologies to make use of the microgravity environment to beat the efficiency and quality of goods and materials made on Earth. The question has been how to bring products home safely in sufficient quantities. Jonathan O’Callaghan tells the story of two startups vying to show the way.
SpaceX’s breakthroughs in reusability sprang from the lessons of history. The coming Starship space launch attempt portends an even more profound lowering of launch costs in the years ahead. Phil Moynihan and Eugene Ustinov share their analysis.
Fifty years after a British rocket last launched a satellite, the U.K. Space Agency is bringing the country back into the space launch business. Paul Marks explores the race to open three new spaceports this year.
The large constellation builders are starting to launch their satellites now, despite a lack of consensus about how best to clear away worn-out or malfunctioning satellites. Enter Astroscale, a startup headquartered in Tokyo with offices in the United Kingdom, the United States and Singapore. The company is about to conduct an orbital demonstration of a magnetic cleanup technique. Astroscale’s Jason Forshaw explains how the mission will work.
Those who want to expand society into space have long dreamed of a space-made product that will prove to be uniquely lucrative. A stunning return on investment, the thinking goes, would induce others to flock to orbit with their own dreams, just as Americans headed west in the 19th century. This year, a fiber optic material called ZBLAN is receiving its moment in the limelight for its potential to ignite the space economy. Debra Werner tells the story.