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India's Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft has settled into lunar orbit, ahead of its scheduled moon landing on September 7. If it succeeds India will join a very select club, now comprising the former Soviet Union, the United States and China.
As with all previous moon missions, national prestige is a big part of India's moon shot. But there are some colder calculations behind it as well. Space is poised to become a much bigger business, and both companies and countries are investing in the technological capability to ensure they reap the earthly rewards.
Year - Investment - Technology - US - Seraphim
Last year private investment in space-related technology skyrocketed to US$3.25 billion, according to the London-based Seraphim Capital—a 29% increase on the previous year.
The list of interested governments is also growing. Along with China and India joining the lunar A-list, in the past decade eight countries have founded space agencies—Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Interest - Piece - Market - Payloads - Satellites
Of prime interest is carving out a piece of the market for making and launching commercial payloads. As much as we already depend on satellites now, this dependence will only grow.
In 2018 382 objects were launched into space. By 2040 it might easily be double that, with companies like Amazon planning "constellations," composed of thousands of satellites, to provide telecommunication services.
Satellite - Business - Start - Prize - Technology
The satellite business is just a start. The next big prize will be technology for "in-situ resource utilization"—using materials from space for space operations. One example is extracting water from the moon (which could also be split to provide oxygen and hydrogen-based rocket fuel). NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, has suggested Australian agencies and companies could play a key role in this.
All up, the potential gains from a slice of the space economy are huge. It is estimated the space economy could grow from about US$350 billion now to more than...
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