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05 November 2021

Fruitless Fame or Fuelling Change?

The term ‘space economy’ is widely seen as synonymous with billionaire vanity projects that waste resources and, though some hail the rockets soaring into the sky, others raise an eyebrow at the plume of smoke they leave behind. Away from the headline-grabbing rockets, is there more to the space economy? Is it all just a vacuum of resources, or does it do more than we might realise?
 
CLIMATE CHANGE
An important sector of the space economy involves monitoring of all stripes, which is invaluable in the fight against climate change. A range of satellites occupy the Earth’s orbit collecting key data on the environmental impact of company activities using satellite imagery. This activity has provided data on greenhouse gases (GHG) and emissions since 2002 with specialised satellites, of which more and more are being launched. Governments and companies are planning to launch satellites that can pinpoint the source of pollutants and GHG emissions, a key function in holding actors accountable to their sustainability commitments.
 
Realising the potential in this segment, a plethora of start-ups have jumped into the fray; for instance, Bluefield, a San Francisco based start-up, plans on monitoring the whole planet for GHG emissions at a granular level and selling the data. Another, ChAi, is using climate data to predict commodity prices and improve hedging strategies, claiming to improve commodity spend margins by 25% and, importantly, improving preparedness against increasingly volatile weather events.
 
FOOD SUSTAINABILITY
Though far from sight or mind at the dinner table, the space economy is also supporting food sustainability. The global economic impact of illegal fishing is estimated to exceed US$20bn annually as declining fish populations reduce yields. Overfishing represents a systemic challenge to ocean biodiversity and health. To fight illegal fishing, ImageSat International ISI developed Kingfisher, a multi-sensor maritime intelligence system combining information sources to help expose the movements of fishing boats in protected zones.
 
GLOBAL EQUALITY
The space economy is also at work providing global connectivity and equality of access to the internet. Satellite broadband is a flexible alternative to cable internet, able to reach rural areas otherwise lacking in internet infrastructure. The sector’s major players are SpaceX with Starlink, and Oneweb. Normal communications satellites work by transmitting radio waves to antennae down on earth. Those antennae then provide connected devices with the signal communicate. Satellite internet instead uses lasers which are faster and have a stronger signal resulting in speeds of 300Mbps, similar to speeds provided though fibre broadbands.
 
FUTURE TRANSPORT
The space drive could also be key to the next revolution in transport. Many proponents of autonomous driving believe it will require global connectivity to operate, with satellites being endorsed by the EUSPA (The EU Space Agency), and invested in by carmaker Geely, as a core component of connected car systems. Satellite’s ability to reach areas without terrestrial connections could be instrumental in the roll-out of software updates to regions simultaneously – a mismatch of software updates could have deadly consequences if the new operating systems fail to communicate with the old. This capability to transmit volumes of data to areas regardless of terrestrial connection would also make the space economy an important provider of road condition and traffic information, vital for any traffic management systems.
 
To view the full article and read about: Healthcare Innovation, Resource Efficiency, Cybersecurity, Net Positive Benefit and Space Pollution. Click here
 
This article was taken from the September 2021 Market Insight. To subscribe to our investment publications, please visit www.redmayne.co.uk/publications.
 
Fruitless Fame or Fuelling Change?
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