Issue #1(27) 2021 Astronautics

Space industry trends in the pandemic

Starship SN9 prior to its high-altitude flight test in January 2021.
Starship SN9 prior to its high-altitude flight test in January 2021.
Josephine Millward The Flying Object, Washington DC, USA

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on industry and commerce worldwide but some sectors, such as the space industry, have been relatively resilient despite the disruptions and economic headwinds. Rather than retrenching, the space industry as a whole has continued to make tremendous progress in 2020, successfully delivering historic missions to Mars and the first commercial human spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS). This year could be even better, suggests Josephine Millward.

The year 2020 set a record for investments in space at US$7.7 billion, up 70 percent from 2019, according to the Seraphim Space Index. Following a brief dip in the second quarter, space investments bounced back to a record $5.5 billion in the second half, driven by strong government support and investor interest.

In particular, the market saw an increase in so-called ‘mega’ rounds of investment totalling more than $50 million, primarily in launch and constellation sectors. Larger and later stage (Series C and D) financing rounds accounted for more than 75 percent of all investments in 2020, demonstrating the maturing of the ecosystem as investors made bigger commitments to emerging category leaders. So, with recovery in key markets and a healthy investor appetite, in addition to investment exits from mergers and acquisitions and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, the future looks optimistic.

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