Privatization of Space Travel Essay

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Most application of economic policy is done on either the national, supranational or subnational scales. Seldom is economic policy enacted on the non-national scale. Yet, there is the question of whether there is benefit to applying economic doctrine to space exploration. There is a corollary, in Antarctica, where various nations have signed a treaty committing to scientific activity only on that continent, and not economic activity. Yet, realistically, with space the horse is well out of the barn. Nations all over the world have launched satellites, thus far, and the more powerful nations have engaged in a broader scope of scientific exploration. Yet, the question still exists, as to whether any economic system should be applied to space, space exploration and the terrorities that exist in space. And if so, what should that economic system look like? This paper will start to explore this concept in more detail, from an economic perspective.

Space Exploration

The earliest exploration of space was strictly a governmental endeavor. If not strictly military in nature, it was close. The costs associated with space exploration in the 20th century was extraordinary, and there was absolutely no monetary gain to be had from such exploration. It was, at that time, only in the realm of science fiction that money could be made from space, aside from launching satellites. Yet today, it is not out of the realm of possibility that money can be made in space – and certainly we can envision a point in the future, far or near, when there is a viable business venture in space tourism, if not other activities. This raises the issue of the economics of space.

When there was no monetary, capitalist incentive for space travel, the exploration of space fell to governments. The biggest leaps were made during the Cold War, when space exploration was a proxy for the scientific might of the world’s two major superpowers. The incentive was not monetary, but more ideological in nature, and therefore space was worth the cost. As the Cold War started to fade, so too did space exploration.
However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence in space exploration. A number of nations now participate in different ways, making contributions either to research on space travel, or on the International Space Station, or otherwise. All the world’s major powers make some contribution, and the underlying theory is that this is done for the good of mankind.…

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…a non-commercialization pact be signed among countries that contribute to space exploration. There is certainly a case to be made that ROI can drive greater levels of innovation, but as space belongs to no earthly government, it should remain a generally free territory for use. That said, the nations capable of contributing to space exploration and use should be bound by a treaty similar to that which governs the use of Antarctica. Indeed, we can learn from the oceans that space will be similar – if left ungoverned, waste will simply end up in space, and its economic value will be stripped while nations skirt responsibility for the externalities. Multinational treaties can create a framework that prevents this, in particular because of the importance that space is likely to have in the future for our economic well-being or maybe even the survival of the species.


Space is as yet economically ungoverned. Yet, there is economic activity in space, and current technological trends show that this will only intensify going forward. Thus, a treaty should be developed to provide a framework for dealing with key issues of the orbital commons such as waste, commoditization of space, and capitalization of activity either in space or on….....

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Elvis, M. (2016) What can space research do for astronomy and planetary science? Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Retrieved February 20, 2019 from

Hayward, K. (2015) The economics of launch vehicles: Towards a new business model. Yearbook on Space Policy. Vol. 2015, 247-256.

Salter, A. (2016) Space debris: A law and economics analysis of the orbital commons. Stanford Technical Law Review. Vol. 19 (2016) 221-237

Sweeting, M. (2018) Modern small satellites – changing the economics of space. Proceedings of the IEEE. Vol. 106 (3) 343-361.

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