New Defense Authorization Will Benefit Commercial Space Startups
However, when the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees unveiled 2024’s new National Defense Authorization Act this week, the legislation included some boosts to the burgeoning entrepreneurial commercial space industry. The words “defense” and “space” evoke aerospace industry pillars like Boeing or Lockheed Martin.
The act allows the Space Force, which is now a distinct arm of the armed forces of the United States, to modify its launch site operations in a way that could facilitate access for private enterprises. The concept is for commercial space companies to make improvements to their facilities and receive faster access rights in return. According to SpaceNews.com, the Space Force command strongly supported this measure for the historic—and currently extremely busy—spaceports at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.
The Space Force is also required by the proposed spending plan to provide a description of how it will incorporate tracking information from for-profit space companies into its routine space tracking activities. There are more objects in orbit to be tracked for security and safety purposes because so many more are being launched into orbit. As the market expands, a new generation of space startups is eager to assist with the work.
It is obvious that well-known commercial space operators like SpaceX will be impacted by these decisions. The CEO of the space giant, Elon Musk, announced this week that SpaceX will launch 80% of the weight sent into space by anyone on Earth this year on its own. Therefore, even though SpaceX is still in some ways a startup, it is possibly the most significant new player in the space industry, and improved access to launch facilities would undoubtedly help its business operations.
However, the new bill may also help startups like Blue Origin, the company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Relativity Space, and RocketLab. Furthermore, the choice could eventually affect an even larger sector of the economy.
According to reports earlier this year, the global space economy is predicted to grow by more than 40% over the next five years, ballooning from 8% to over half a trillion dollars in 2022. Additionally, it’s thought the space startup industry has a bright future, despite some data suggesting that funding from venture capital firms declined this year from previous record highs. This appears especially plausible in light of the fact that SpaceX is currently building and testing its massive Starship system and has long made it a goal to lower the cost of space access. The goal of Starship is to bring down the cost of launching a kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of payload into space to less than $100, and potentially even as low as $10. This is a significant reduction from the previous cost of Space Shuttle launches, which was over $50,000 per kilogram.