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NewSpace—formerly; also "new space,"[1] entrepreneurial space, and "commercial space"[2][3][4][5]—are umbrella terms for a movement and philosophy[6] often affiliated with, but not synonymous with, an emergent private spaceflight industry. Specifically, the terms are used to refer to a community of relatively new aerospace companies working to develop low-cost access to space or spaceflight technologies and advocates of low-cost spaceflight technology and policy.


The term "" was first used in the early 1980s to describe companies that were making serious efforts to reach outer space without cooperation with NASA, other governmental agencies, or their contractors, which were catalyzed by an historic shift in U.S. policy favoring private space activity, culminating in the landmark Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984.[7][8][9] Beyond the terminology—"", "private space", "NewSpace," or "new space"—since the 1980s, the philosophy of various organizations (such as the Space Frontier Foundation in the United States) has been one of "extolling the virtues of Solar System settlement and operating independent of bureaucratic government programs."[6]

Ironically, the seeds of today's NewSpace were accelerated by the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 and the unprecedented—more like then unimaginable—releasing of that former rival-superpower's iconic and otherwise mature/proven space assets, technologies, capabilities, and services onto the world's private markets with the immediate assistance of a handful of largely American private firms (established and startups; though true pioneers one and all); notably these core-four: International Launch Services (f/k/a Lockheed-Khrunichev-Energia Int'l;[10][11] Lockheed Martin JV; Proton; est. 1993); Commercial Space Management Co. (CSMC; Energia, Zenit, RD-170; est. 1993);[12][13] Sea Launch (Boeing JV; Zenit; est. 1995); and MirCorp (Mir, Soyuz, Progress; est. 1999).[14][15][16][17] Until that moment in world industrial history, no private business enterprise or entrepreneur could remotely conceive of, for example, leasing—possibly even owning and operating—an honest-to-goodness, fully functional, orbiting space station, such as the Mir, let alone basically just picking up the phone and placing an order for a bespoke space launch, of all things, without batting an eye. (Until then, even for a telecommunications giant, like AT&T, placing a commercial communications satellite on orbit,[18] for example, was a major ordeal.) Once that titanium, industrial-sized, mental block was cracked in two—once the sheer ease (relatively speaking) of making things happen in space set in—the animal spirits of aerospace capitalism were unleashed, entrepreneurial vision and imagination were freed to roam, and nature took its course. All of which set off the currently ongoing, industry-wide, virtuous cycle of faster, better, cheaper (next-gen FBC; FBC was originally pioneered in the space field by NASA, warts and all[19][20]); and otherwise paved the way to today's far more vibrant and conducive overall industry environment—whether or not involving Russian space resources, at this point—where entrepreneurs, investors, regulators, lawmakers, supranational organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, and other key ecosystem players can now deal with privately-conducted, for-profit space activity more rationally, realistically, practically, and cost-efficiently instead of as the near-mystical forbidden fruit it once was.[21] (Wernher von Braun, the NASA engineering genius behind the Apollo moon landing, summed up the historically stultifying institutional-bureaucratic cautiousness toward space activity in general by famously quipping, "We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.")[22] Near the end of the 1990s, a dramatic increase in companies engaging in this process led to the common usage of the phrase "new space companies";[4] "NewSpace," and "entrepreneurial space" are now the most commonly used terms,[3][4][5][23] though "" was still seen occasionally as late as 2011.[24]

Things changed further in the early 2000s as Elon Musk formed SpaceX with significantly more private capital while he articulated a strong and consistent vision of the "colonization of space, beginning with Mars." As journalist Eric Berger described, this vision was in a sharp contrast with

"that of the traditional [US] aerospace contractors—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others—which generally wait for NASA [or the US Air Force] to say what it wants, and then the contractors fight for those federal dollars. They will deliver a quality product, certainly, but at a high cost and generally without a sense of urgency. For new space, the vision must exist independent of government programs, beyond the NASA model of exploring with a few professional astronauts. Costs must fall, and space must become accessible for many, not a few."[6]

however, one company in a worldwide milieu of government-driven spaceflight activities simply did not cement a movement.[6] This began to change with the increasingly public revelations and pronouncements of Blue Origin after 2014. Even though Blue was formed about the same time as SpaceX, it had maintained a very low profile in its first decade and a half of existence. By 2016, both of these two private companies, with billion-US-dollar-plus backing by committed investors, were successfully vertically-landing (and in Blue's case, reusing) space launch vehicles; both companies are building large reusable orbital launch systems that will utilize currently-under-development rocket engines that are each at least four years along in development, and are already in use or under development test on ground test stands, all with a focus on radically lowering the price of carrying people and cargo to space.[6]


NewSpace is a term that has had some variation in meaning since "supplanting the geekier '' moniker" after about 2006.[24]

NewSpace is defined by as covering "approaches to space development that differ significantly from that taken by NASA and the mainstream aerospace industry".[25] Definitions of what exactly is and is not NewSpace vary but typically include several of the following criteria:

  • Development of launch systems principally with private funding, with only secondary or no involvement with government spaceflight programs and contractors. Private companies that conduct aeronautical efforts, such as Boeing, are generally not considered part of NewSpace due to their heavy reliance on NASA development funding as part of their business model. NewSpace companies need not universally avoid NASA, often participating in projects such as Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, but tend to focus primarily on consumers in the private sector.[citation needed]
  • Low cost approaches or budgeting plans. Due to the highly expensive nature of spaceflight and lack of government funding, many NewSpace companies consequently take a low-cost approach to constructing launch vehicles and other necessary components.[26] NewSpace companies commonly participate in, or are created to participate in, projects such as the Ansari X Prize and the Google Lunar X Prize.
  • Primary drive towards innovation. "A NewSpace company might use innovative new technologies that will lead to low cost, robust space systems. Or a company might simply combine currently available, "cheap-off-the-shelf" (COTS) technologies in an innovative manner that provides a new and highly capable system at lower costs."[26]
  • Incremental development that is profitable even at initial low-levels of space system complexity and capability. Many NewSpace development projects follow the "model of other technologies such as computer chips and LCD displays. Start with systems of limited capability but with markets that can provide a profit and thus pay for the development necessary to make the next step up in capability. Over time this can have a tremendous pay off as hardware improvements are compounded and markets expand."[26]
  • Aim to increase human presence in outer space.[26] Many NewSpace companies, such as Bigelow Aerospace and XCOR Aerospace, have publicly stated goals to send civilian humans into outer space on a mass scale and/or at low end-user costs.

Current usage[edit]

NewSpace has come to be used to describe a set of companies that are developing a lower-cost paradigm for the economic use of space including companies making plans for the utilization of in-space resources.[27] The Space Frontier Foundation holds an annual 'NewSpace' conference to discuss NewSpace-related issues and publishes a 'NewSpace News' periodical.[28]

Mojave, California has been described as "the Silicon Valley of NewSpace".[29] Mojave is home to Masten Space Systems, Scaled Composites, XCOR Aerospace, and the Mojave Spaceport, the world's first private space launch facility.[29]

Following the successful third flight of the Dragon spacecraft in May 2012 by private company SpaceX, some financial industry analysts are now handicapping NewSpace companies and the projected performance of infrastructure vs. application companies in the evolving industry.[30]

Industry Verticals[edit]

While several industry verticals[clarification needed][31] are being explored by private companies, only a few currently have an offering, and even less have started commercial services.

Among the verticals are:[citation needed]

A number of projects involving nanosatellites have been crowdfunded on platforms such as Kickstarter.[citation needed]


Much of the activity in the United States is now involved in government licensing activities and regulation development for proposed spaceflights, managed by the Federal Aviation Administration

NewSpace Organizations[edit]

The following are companies and organizations generally regarded as both and successfully active (or previously successfully active).[citation needed]

Active Companies[edit]

In hiatus or defunct[edit]




See also[edit]


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External links[edit]