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Origin:Proceedings of Second ISST

Over the past half century, taxpayers of the world have paid nearly $1 trillion for civilian space activities, approximately half of this amount being spent on human space flight. If the same investment were made on a commercial basis, it would be generating revenues of several hundred $billions/year, employing more than 10 million people on a permanent basis, and earning tens of $billions/year of profits. However, although telecommunications and broadcasting satellites are now commercially self-sustaining activities they generate some $20 billion/year in revenues, and human space flight activities earn only a few tens of $millions/year.

This paper argues that development of commercial passenger travel services to and from space is the key innovation needed to generate an economic return on the cumulative investment made in space capabilities to date. It is technically feasible using existing technology, and it is expected to grow into a much larger business than satellite communications. In addition it will have important macro-economic impacts by helping to overcome the current global deflation caused by world-wide over-capacity in older industries and insufficient innovation of new ones. Governments currently spend $25 billion/year on civilian space activities, but essentially none of this is aimed at realising passenger space transportation. This paper argues that facilitating the application of space technology to the development of passenger space travel services should be a priority of economic policy.

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