Since the 1950s space exploration and aerospace has represented one of the fastest growing areas of the economy. In the last decade the transition to a huge number of private launches into space, the explosion of objects in space for remote sensing and communications, proposed pathways to automated exploration and resource extraction, novel aerospace materials, new electronic miniaturization, and the demand for rare-Earth metals have all pushed human society towards a true “space economy”. A review of the existing literature in this domain highlights the need for more rigorous discussion on how to frame discussions and predictions regarding the “emergence” of a space economy, its regulation, and consequences for human society and our solar system. For example, how should we protect resources or life on planetary bodies weighed against ecosystems being displaced by mining on Earth? How do governments agree on management of orbiting objects when space becomes crowded? Given SFI’s record of promoting collaboration among different research perspectives, through this working group, we seek to organize a diverse group of researchers to address a blue sky problem that epitomizes an emerging political economy The aim of this Micro Working Group is to set the stage in terms of identifying focal topics and core competencies for a prospective Workshop on Space Economics to be held in Spring or Summer 2024.
This micro working group builds on the scientific conversation started by a seminar by Timiebi Aganaba at SFI entitled “Space Governance: A Complex Adaptive System?” as well as a later panel facilitated by Travis Holmes during the 2022 Interplanetary Festival on “The Complex Space of Political Economies.” Given the novelty and lack of established research on the topic, a working group on Space Economy fits well within the scope of the Emergent Political Economies research theme at SFI (i.e., “to reimagine the core assumptions of economic, political, and social life”) and with the Interplanetary Festival tradition at large.