Issue #2(28) 2021 Opinion

Is NewSpace really so new?

Walter Peeters International Space University, Strasbourg, France

When the term ‘NewSpace’ became common at the end of the 1990s, several commercial space actors objected to the statement that this was a new phenomenon, insisting instead that NewSpace be considered part of ongoing space commercialisation. Here, Walter Peeters discusses whether or not NewSpace is really anything new.

In academic journals and specialised literature, the debate regarding the distinction between commercial space and NewSpace continues, as authors strive to determine a definition of terms to enable a factual comparison.

It has been suggested, for example, that the ‘traditional’ space population pursues goals set by governments, with boundaries defined by political and social forces, and executes activities that tend to be risk averse, based primarily on public financing, and generating competence-enhancing, sustaining innovations.

NewSpace, on the other hand, pursues common, non-governmental market goals bounded primarily by market forces (resulting in cost and time pressures and exposure to multiple sources of risk) and executes activities in an entrepreneurial way (i.e. risk-taking based on private financing, experimenting with disruptive innovations or commercial-off-the-shelf innovations sourced from other industries).

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