Space businesses are usually tasked with doing something useful for people on Earth. However, it is quite possible that in the future it will be more profitable to work for those who will live in space. The main aim is to make their life sweeter.
In the first part of this story, we talked about Earth observation and communication satellites, which are the backbone of the space business today. In the second part, we talked about mining in space and relocation of industry there.
However, it is quite possible that outer space can provide people with something more than rare chemical compounds, exotic alloys, and products based on them. These will be services that cannot be obtained on Earth and that can significantly improve and even completely change our lives.
One interesting business idea concerns wine. Humankind has been producing it for thousands of years, but has not yet figured out how to speed up the aging process without compromising the quality of the product. Experts from the Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia project have recently tried to prove that space is quite capable of helping us in this regard. They sent several bottles of young wine to the ISS, where they stayed for almost six months. And when the bottles returned, the scientists compared their contents with a control drink stored on Earth. They noticed differences in both its color and flavor. The drink tasted as if it had been aged at least twice as long as it actually had.
So it is quite possible that orbital winemaking will also become a profitable business in the future. Moreover, experiments on growing plants in orbit are now in full swing. If grapes can be cultivated in this way, the raw materials for the “heavenly wine” will not even have to be imported from Earth.
Tourism may become an even more promising branch of the space business. One of the biggest needs of modern people who are not actually starving, have decent health care, and live in safe cities where they do not have to fight for survival every day is a lack of experiences and impressions. That is why people love to travel.
But our world`s diversity gets ever compromised. Countries that were considered exotic in the last century are now not much different from Europe and North America in terms of quality of life. Wildlife and antiquities are increasingly left in artificial reserves. There are fewer and fewer places where you can get unique experiences.
And that’s what makes space tourism such an attractive industry. Zero gravity alone is practically unavailable on Earth not to mention the view of our planet from orbit. People are willing to pay millions of dollars for these experiences.
Space tourism has now moved beyond pure theory. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have already started more or less regular suborbital flights. However, sooner or later people will want more than just a few minutes of weightlessness and stunning views.
Axiom Space’s proposals look much more promising as a future business. In early 2024, its customers will be able to fly to the International Space Station for the third time on a SpaceX ship. There may be many more such tours in the future. It is quite possible that China’s Tiangong station will also start receiving private visitors.
However, these stations were never specifically designed to receive tourists. For a long time now, there has been an idea to build an orbital hotel that would do nothing but entertain people who want new experiences in space. It could potentially generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year.
However, this will be only the beginning. As people explore the Moon, Mars, and other bodies in the solar system, opportunities for commercial travel to those places will arise as well. There, everyone will definitely be able to find many experiences that are not available on Earth.
The further people move away from Earth, the more opportunities there will be for space tourism. The reason is not only that new locations will become available to visit, but also new transport opportunities — larger and faster interplanetary ships. And here, different sectors of the space economy may well start stimulating each other. After all, the availability of ships and stations that space mining and industry can provide will create opportunities for more people to visit space. And more tourists will mean more orders for the industry, and at some point it will reach a high level of profit.
How profitable can construction in space be?
This is another type of space activity not usually mentioned as potentially profitable business of the future. On Earth, construction is one of the most reliable businesses for those who think years ahead. In space this activity still seems like a huge abyss into which millions and billions of dollars will be thrown.
That’s because none of the above businesses can be developed without creating a suitable amount of habitable room. Currently, this is another huge obstacle to the development of space entrepreneurship. But things may change in the future. And it will happen not so much because of the use of new technologies (for example, inflatable structures or construction 3D printers), but because we will start using local materials instead of earthly ones.
It is the need to first build space housing on Earth and then launch it into space that makes it incredibly expensive (mind the Tsiolkovsky formula). By reducing the distance between the place of mining of materials and construction to zero, space development can be made extremely profitable.
And the main driver here, again, will be people. After all, from an amazing journey across the expanses of another planet, it is practically one step to settling in one of those incredible places. This is where space construction can really come into its own. After all, people are willing to pay incredible amounts of money for their dream home. And then, the more people there are, the more orders there will be, and the price will gradually decrease.
Eventually, if people start living outside their home planet, the question of the usefulness of space for the Earth will disappear by itself. Space businesses will serve extraterrestrial settlements and create their own economic system. Any business that exists on Earth will be able to become a part of it, if local conditions allow it. The best way to make space profitable is to settle there.