Commercialization of Space

The space research organizations have traveled a longer distance since the launching of the Sputnik, self-reliance and national application of the space science. Technology became the main cornerstone of the space programs. The main thrust is on satellite communications for various national and international uses, remote sensing for resources survey and management, environmental monitoring and meteorological services, and development and operationalisation of indigenous satellites and launching vehicles for providing these services. Initially there was quest to know about the space and now it is the time for every one to think on commercialization of space.

There has been a significant increase in the range of applications pertaining to civilian space. At present, Telecommunications, observation and positioning of the earth and navigation systems are the major applications of the space.

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Telecommunications include fixed telecommunication services like, data, voice, internet, multimedia; broadcasting like radio and TV services; mobile services like data, voice, internet, digital radio. Now the evolution of the satellite communication has large global coverage with Telecommunications providing the most dynamic market for space applications.

Earth Observation: It helps in measuring and monitoring the climate of the Earth and its environment, apart from mapping of its resources.

Positioning and Navigation: Localization and navigation can be helped by the use of satellites to a great extent. Especially with the implementation of GPS many applications are increasing like air transport, maritime transport or even isolated individuals’ localization.

GPS: The technology is burgeoning by the Global Positioning System (GPS) as it gives unmatched precision apart from the flexibility in the positioning for navigation, as it is a satellite based system.

The applications have proved to be difficult on commercial viability. So the financial communities and the industries are feeling difficult to progress in the space development. As a result, number of countries are reconsidering their overall space strategies.

For the Development of Space Infrastructure and Commercialization of Space, the Futures Projects are being launched aiming at providing of assessment of the long term prospects of the sector and also the key factors associated for the shaping of its evolution; examining the new promising applications may come on stream over that duration; identification of the required conditions for the emergence of such applications  which may include possible changes even in the existing space infrastructure and also the deployment of new space infrastructure; drawing implications with regard to the supportive measures that could be placed to foster their development that may include new and innovative forms of public/private partnerships; Identification of the measures could be taken by the government in order to provide a policy, legal and regulatory framework which can be better suited for the new commercial applications development.

Like the past OECD Projects of Future, the Project on the Commercialization and the Development of Space Infrastructure is mostly financed by both public as well as private organizations participating in the Projects by voluntary contributions and grants, which will include major users of space services and the products. Invitation can also be given to Non-OECD stakeholders on an ad hoc basis with the agreement of the OECD participants.

The Commercial Space Act of 1998 by the US government has changed the direction of space development after the cold-war by committing to commercialize the international space station. The possibility of space travel as a result of great economic potential by the general public was acknowledged in publications by NASA. But till date, only a few hundred people came forward to travel to space. Contrastingly, aviation is a global industry, commercially also, which involve wide range of activities from engineering design to marketing, apart from providing service to more than 1 billion passengers per year.

Therefore, for the development of safe and profitable passenger travel services on the space journey, the people or companies or the organizations with prior experience of space activities need to gain a great deal by collaborating with various branches of the aviation industry.

In the present perspective, the aviation industry has long experience of operations with piloted, rocket-powered vehicles like the use of Rocket-Assisted-Take-Off (RATO) or Jet-Assisted-Take-Off (JATO) during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Apart from military activities RATO systems, on commercial passenger aircrafts were used for a long period; the experience of that will be a valuable tool in developing the procedures for the commercial passenger space travel services.

In the space industry, the Companies and government organizations have experienced the launching of dispensable rockets into the orbits, of remote controlling satellites in space with the crewed vehicles that can be used for the development of passenger space travel services. But the funded space agencies of the Governments lack in experience of commercial passenger service operations and also they are much interested in such activities.

But the landmark report “ General Public Space Travel and Tourism” with the cooperation of the US Space Transportation Association, acknowledged that travel by the general public in the space is a rational idea that could grow into the largest business activity in space.

Like many other industries, space industry has also experienced vigorous restructuring after the cold war such as large aerospace companies was consolidated as a result of cuts in defense budgets and commercialization of satellite communications activities. But the pattern of the domination of the Government funding didn’t change. The acknowledgment of the potential economic value of space travel by the common public and also the direction of the government to accentuate on the commercial activities of space, lot of reluctance is seen for making reality. Still it is a considerable matter for its economic importance showing that if the current pattern of the space agencies’ budgets goes on i.e. $25 billion/year, over the next 20 years taxpayers would pay $500 billion.

Deflation is threatening the world economy currently due to lack of innovative fields for economic growth and over-supply in older industries, which makes it highly desirable for the more advanced countries to increase their efforts for the development of new industries. The commercial space travel industry can be in a stage to grow into a scale within 30 years of employing several million people by following JRS scenario.

There are different schools in advocating the development of space tourism regarding to the best vehicle configuration to be used. Single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) horizontal take-off and landing (HTOL) are the leading configurations. HTOL vehicles are winged and are expected to carry passengers with ease when compared to the VTOL vehicles when sub-orbital systems are considered. Whereas relating to landing requirements VTOL vehicles are advantageous as do not use runways.[4]

The ISS built by five partners that are National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Russian Aviation Space Agency (RSA), European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is providing opportunities for space-flight for long-duration of humans in microgravity. The commercialization of ISS is the process helping in selling of ISS products and services to private companies without transferring ownership of the ISS. Society will get benefited by the Commercialization of space technology in areas like environmental protection, prevention of diseases, and innovation of technology etc.

The establishment of the foundation for a market place along with stimulation of the national economy for the space products and services in the low earth orbit region, where the domination of private sector in both demand and supply existed, was the prime objective of the long term NASA plan that took pace in the year 1998. Briefly it can be stated as beginning of the transition to private investment also offsetting a public share for operating the space shuttle fleet and space station in open markets through commercial enterprises.

In 1997, the commercial space act that became law in 1998 for the commercialization efforts for space like launch vehicles, the International Space Station’s commercialization etc. Committee on Economics and Commercialization in Space Activities (CESA) operating under International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) to improve the reasonability and the impact on the society and economy on utilizing of the space for the betterment of mankind.

The Act for the Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness was legislated in 1999 for renewal of commercial indemnification authority to the Secretary of Transportation, the Office of Space Transportation at FAA being authorized along with the Office of Space Commercialization at the Commerce Department; also requiring producing of an independent report on handling of indemnification in the future.

In the October 1998 internal NASA study was undertaken to identify potential pathfinder business enterprises for illuminating the International Space Station’s commercial development by breaking down any barriers in its way. Similarly, various acts and studies were being made by the NASA for the utilization of the space for commercial aspects.

It was the first non-governmental rocket ship that was safely flown and landed at Mojave, California on 21st June 2004 making a history Mike Melwill becoming the first test pilot converting to an Astronaut. There was a controversy going on June 21st flight of Space Ship One, it may be of significant importance or not. But overstating the importance of it will be difficult and it has been said that commercial version flights may cost approximately $20,000/passenger which is very cheap in comparison to the NASA’s rocket journey. Space Ship one has demonstrated successfully the progress in technology that took place in the last fifty years, as it required only four test flights to reach into the space.

The space security ended without military combat and arm race ruling out the predictions. Some of the main reasons for this are:

  1. Risks of collective ‘bads’.
  2. Fear of action – reaction dynamics
  3. The high cost of space weapons
  4. The asset of transparency.

Everything is commercialized and space which was not reachable also became commercialized and left noting from commercialization. Commercialization, Globalization, privatization, etc. cannot be stopped, but they should have some reasonable restraints. International organizations have to take care with defined legal framework and even the nations have to contribute to the success with moral framework, then only the commercialization of the space will have a bright future without negative impacts.


  1. Collaboration with Aviation – The Key to Commercialization of Space Activities, Azabu University & NASDA,  Aviation Industry Consultant, Patrick Collins & Yoshiyuki Funatsu.
  2. Global Positioning System
  3. Leonard David, (2004, June 21), Spaceship One Makes History with First Manned Private Spaceflight, Senior Space Writer.
  4. Message from the NASA Administrator: 2008 National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS), (2008, January 15).
  5. Ms. S.A. Tkatchova | Master of Space Studies, Frankrijk, promotor | K. Smit and S.C. Santema (LR). From space exploration to commercialisation
  6. Protecting safe access to space: Lessons from the first 50 years of space security,James Clay Moltz,   space policy, volume 23, Issue 4, November 2007, Pages 199-205.
  7. The Historic Significance of Spaceship One’s June 21 Space Flight, Space future’s view, 17 June 2004
  8. The Commercialization of Space and the Development of Space Infrastructure

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Commercialization of Space. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from