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Commercialization of space

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Title: Commercialization of space  
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Subject: Space colonization, Colonization, Bigelow Aerospace, Tourism on the Moon, Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization
Collection: Commerce, Satellite Broadcasting, Space Economy
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Commercialization of space

A DIRECTV satellite dish on a roof

Commercialization of space is the use of equipment sent into or through outer space to provide goods or services of commercial value, either by a corporation or state. Examples of the commercial use of space include satellite navigation systems, satellite television and satellite radio. The first commercial use of outer space was in 1962, when the Telstar 1 satellite was launched to transmit television signals over the Atlantic ocean. By the 1980s individuals belonging to private firms were being launched into space to oversee commercial equipment deployment and operations. This eventually lead to opportunities for individuals to pay to be put into space in the early 2000s, which was the birth of space tourism. By 2004, global investment in all space sectors was estimated to be $50.8 billion.[1] In the decades following the advent of space tourism, many different concepts of the commercialization of space have evolved, from the founding of space tourism companies, such as Virgin Galactic, to ambitious projects such as Mars Colonization, Asteroid Mining and Tourism on Moon.


  • History 1
  • Subscription satellite services 2
  • Transponder leasing 3
  • Ground equipment manufacturing 4
  • Satellite manufacturing 5
  • Satellite imagery 6
  • Satellite navigation 7
  • Space transportation 8
  • Economic factors 9
  • Space tourism 10
    • Regulation 10.1
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


The first commercial use of satellites may have been the Telstar 1 satellite, launched in 1962, which was the first privately sponsored space launch, funded by AT&T and Bell Telephone Laboratories. Telstar 1 was capable of relaying television signals across the Atlantic Ocean, and was the first satellite to transmit live television, telephone, fax, and other data signals.[2][3] Two years later, the Hughes Aircraft Company developed the Syncom 3 satellite, a geosynchronous communications satellite, leased to the Department of Defense. Commercial possibilities of satellites were further realized when the Syncom 3, orbiting near the International Date Line, was used to telecast the 1964 Olympic Games from Tokyo to the United States.[4][5]

Between 1960 and 1966, NASA launched a series of early weather satellites known as Television Infrared Observation Satellites (TIROS). These satellites greatly advanced meteorology worldwide, as satellite imagery was used for better forecasting, for both public and commercial interests.[6][7]

On April 6, 1965, the Hughes Aircraft Company placed the Intelsat I communications satellite geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean. Intelsat I was built for the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT), and demonstrated that satellite-based communication was commercially feasible. Intelsat I allowed for near-instantaneous contact between Europe and North America by handling television, telephone and fax transmissions.[8][9] Two years later, the Soviet Union launched the Orbita satellite, which provided television signals across Russia, and started the first national satellite television network.[10][11] Similarly, the 1972 Anik A satellite, launched by Telesat Canada, allowed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to reach northern Canada for the first time.[12][13]

Beginning in 1997, Iridium Communications began launching a series of satellites known as the Iridium satellite constellation, which provided the first satellites for direct satellite telephone service.[14][15]

Subscription satellite services

In 1994, DirecTV debuted by introducing a dish 18 inches in diameter. In 1996, Astro started in Malaysia with the launch of the MEASAT satellite. In November 1999, the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act became law, and local stations were then made available in satellite channel packages, fueling the industry’s growth in the years that followed. By the end of 2000, DTH subscriptions totaled over 67 million.

Transponder leasing

Businesses that operate satellites often lease or sell access to their satellites to data relay and telecommunication firms. This service is often referred to as transponder leasing. Between 1996 and 2002, this industry experienced a 15 percent annual growth. The United States accounts for about 32 percent of the world’s transponder market.

Ground equipment manufacturing

Operating satellites communicate via receivers and transmitters on Earth. The manufacturing of satellite communication terminals (including VSATs), mobile satellite telephones, and home television receivers are a part of the ground equipment manufacturing sector. This sector grew through the latter half of the 1990s as it manufactured equipment for the satellite services sector. Between the years of 1996 and 2002 this industry saw a 14 percent annual increase.

Satellite manufacturing

Commercial satellite manufacturing is defined by the United States government as satellites manufactured for civilian government or non-profit use. Not included are satellites constructed for military use, nor for activities associated with any human space flight program. Between the years of 1996 and 2002, satellite manufacturing within the United States experienced an annual growth of 11 percent. The rest of the world experienced higher growth levels of around 13 percent.

Satellite imagery

Several operators of Earth observation satellites, such as GeoEye and Spot Image, provide images commercially.

Satellite navigation

Magellan GPS receiver in a marine application.

Space transportation

Delta IV Medium launch carrying DSCS III-B6

The commercial space transportation industry derives the bulk of its revenue from the launching of satellites into the Earth’s orbit. Commercial launch providers typically place private and government satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). In 2002, commercial space transportation generated 6.6 billion dollars, which made up 6% of the total gross of commercial space activities.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has licensed four commercial spaceports in the United States: the Virginia Space Flight Center/Wallops Flight Facility, Kodiak Launch Complex, Spaceport Florida/Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the California Spaceport/Vandenberg AFB. Launch sites within Russia and China have added to the global commercial launch capacity. The Delta IV and Atlas V family of launch vehicles are made available for commercial ventures for the United States, while Russia promotes eight families of vehicles. The three largest Russian systems are the Proton, Soyuz, and Zenit.

Between 1996 and 2002, 245 launches were made for commercial ventures while government (non-classified) launches only total 167 for the same period. Commercial space flight has spurred investment into the development of an efficient reusable launch vehicle (RLV) which can place larger payloads into orbit. Several companies such as SpaceX are currently creating new RLV designs.

Economic factors

Beyond the many technological factors that could make space commercialization more widespread, it has been suggested that the lack of private property, the difficulty or inability of individuals in establishing property rights in space, has been an impediment to the development of space for both human habitation and commercial development.[16]

Since the advent of space technology in the latter half of the twentieth century, the ownership of property in space has been murky, with strong arguments both for and against. In particular, the making of national territorial claims in outer space and on celestial bodies has been specifically proscribed by the Outer Space Treaty, which had been, as of 2012, ratified by all spacefaring nations.[16]

Space tourism

Space tourism is space travel by individuals for the purpose of personal pleasure. The space tourism industry is being targeted by spaceports in numerous locations, including the Mojave Air and Space Port in California,[17][18] the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark near Burns Flat, Oklahoma[19][20] Spaceport America in Sierra County, New Mexico,[21][22] the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on the Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia,[23][24] the Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska,[25][26] and the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, Sweden.[27][28]

Proposed spaceports targeting commercial activity include the Ras Al Khaimah spaceport in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates,[29][30] Spaceport Sheboygan near Sheboygan, Wisconsin,[31][32] and Singapore spaceport near Singapore's Changi Airport[33][34]


In the United States, Office of Commercial Space Transportation (generally referred to as FAA/AST or simply AST) is the branch of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that approves any commercial rocket launch operations—that is, any launches that are not classified as model, amateur, or "by and for the government."[35]

See also


  1. ^ Romano, Anthony F. (2005). "SPACE A Report on the Industry" (PDF).  
  2. ^  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ "Significant Achievements in Space Communications and Navigation, 1958-1964" (PDF). NASA-SP-93. NASA. 1966. pp. 30–32. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  5. ^ "Syncom 3".  
  6. ^ "TIROS". NASA. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Hastings, David A.; William J. Emery (1992). "The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR): A Brief Reference Guide".  
  8. ^ Whalen, David J. (30 November 2010). "Communications Satellites: Making the Global Village Possible". NASA. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "Intelsat's Satellite Communication Highlights from the 60's".  
  10. ^ Martin, Donald H. (2000). Communication satellites. AIAA. p. 220.  
  11. ^ Putkov, Vladimir (April 2007). "Sputnik and Russia's Outer Space Activities" (PDF).  
  12. ^ "The World's First National Synchronous Communications Satellite".  
  13. ^ "ANIK The World's First Domestic Synchronous Communication Satellite".  
  14. ^ "Iridium – the satellite phone always rings twice".  
  15. ^ "Commercial Space Transportation QUARTERLY LAUNCH REPORT" (PDF).  
  16. ^ a b Simberg, Rand (Fall 2012). "Property Rights in Space". The New Atlantis (37): 20–31. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  17. ^ "Mojave Air and Space Port".  
  18. ^ Hennigan, W. J. (5 May 2011). "Virgin Galactic reaches key milestone in latest test flight".  
  19. ^ "OKLAHOMA SPACE INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY". Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  20. ^ Boyle, Alan (13 June 2006). "Regulators OK Oklahoma spaceport".  
  21. ^ "Spaceport America".  
  22. ^ "First spaceport runway opens in US".  
  23. ^ Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (2011). "Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport". Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  24. ^ Seitz, David E.; Keith Koehler (22 February 2010). "NASA Increases Support Contract to Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport".  
  25. ^ Alaska Aerospace Corporation (2009). "History and Organization".  
  26. ^ David, Leonard (13 December 2005). "Virgin Galactic Sets Deal With New Mexico Spaceport".  
  27. ^ Ganapati, Priya (18 March 2009). "Space Tourists Pack Bags for 2011 Vacation".  
  28. ^  
  29. ^ Fuller, Harry (6 April 2007). "New Mexico says 'Yes' to Branson spaceport".  
  30. ^  
  31. ^ Hall, Sam-Omar (15 October 2009), Spaceport could be in the stars for Sheboygan,  
  32. ^ "House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation Hearing on Commercial Space Transportation" (PDF).  
  33. ^ Malik, Tariq (13 June 2006). "Spaceport Singapore: One-Stop Shopping for the Future Space Tourist".  
  34. ^ Huggler, Justin (22 February 2006). "Race on to give tourists a trip out of this world".  
  35. ^ "FAA - Office of Commercial Space Transportation". FAA. 


  • Futron Corporation (2001) "Trends in Space Commerce". Retrieved January 24, 2006

External links

  • Ethical Issues
  • Lunar Land Grab
  • Office of Space Commercialization
  • Property Rights
  • Government Policy
  • Mir Space Station Privatization
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