Space: The $1.8 trillion opportunity for global economic growth

| Report

The space industry is approaching the next frontier, with each week bringing news of a major development somewhere in the world. Be it a test of a new rocket system, the launch of an innovative satellite, or a robotic exploration mission safely landing on the moon, activity in space is accelerating.

We estimate that the global space economy will be worth $1.8 trillion by 2035 (accounting for inflation), up from $630 billion in 2023. This figure includes both “backbone” applications—such as those for satellites, launchers, and services like broadcast television or GPS—and what we term “reach” applications”—those for which space technology helps companies across industries generate revenues. Uber, for example, relies on the combination of satellite signals and chips inside smartphones to connect drivers and riders and provide directions in every city.

In 2023, backbone applications made up $330 billion, or slightly greater than 50 percent, of the global space economy, while reach applications represented $300 billion. The expected annual growth rate for backbone and reach applications is twice the projected rate of GDP growth over the next decade (exhibit).1  For comparison, the value estimates for space are similar to those for semiconductors (estimated at $600 billion in 2021 with 6 to 8 percent annual growth into the 2030s)2The semiconductor decade: A trillion-dollar industry,” McKinsey, April 1, 2022. and roughly half of the projection for the global payments industry (estimated to reach $3.2 trillion in revenues by 2027).3On the cusp of the next payments era: Future opportunities for banks, McKinsey, September 18, 2023.

Space applications are expected to grow at a faster rate than global nominal GDP over the next decade.

The growth drivers for the space economy include the need for greater connectivity via satellites, higher demand for positioning and navigation services on mobile phones, and increased demand for insights powered by AI and machine learning. These innovations are delivering greater benefits to a more diverse set of stakeholders than ever before, including companies in industries ranging from food and beverage to transportation. They may also help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as climate change.

This report by the World Economic Forum and McKinsey shines a light on the important developments that will shape the space industry, and the industries adjacent to it, through 2035. As part of our research, we interviewed over 60 leaders and experts across the space sector and other segments to get a detailed view of the trajectory of space technology and its impact—often indirect—on a range of sectors. The insights from these interviews, combined with market forecasts and other data, will help answer three critical questions:

  • How big will space’s “backbone” and its broader “reach” be across the world, by 2035?
  • How will the essential factors determine the trajectory of the future space economy?
  • How can space change the world beyond revenue growth?

For more information, including a detailed assessment of the space economy outlook by segment, download the full report, Space: The $1.8 trillion opportunity for economic growth.

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