According to existing data from financial analysts such as Merrill Lynch and organizations such
Space Foundation, the current Space Economy represents north of ~$400 billion USD.
Estimations indicate it would grow to between $1.1 to $2.7 trillion dollars in the next two
boosted by competition in the transportation industry, lower transportation costs,
as well as existing and new use cases for in-space activities. Activities ranges from science,
manufacturing in space, to tourism and entertainment. These activities require a network
to e.g. transport massive science and observation data to Earth, allow for real-time (as
distance) video communications, and to control the equipment remotely, among others.
There are no limits as of what use cases will be performed in space.
It is estimated that up to 50% of the space economy would be driven by satellite and internet
from small satellites for observation/data/connectivity to global satellite-based
Internet services. Within this area, space networking is relatively new, given that most of
communications technologies (with the exception of the DTN payloads on ISS) use protocols
which has been originally designed for mission support. We expect space networking to grow
the space economy as more actors establish a temporary or permanent presence in space,
starting with the Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), as well as with the increase of space missions (Moon,
The Interplanetary Internet will deliver communications, and positioning, navigation and timing
(PNT) to users in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), as well as the Moon, Mars and other deep
space locations, connecting Earth with the rest of the Solar System.
The Space economy will grow and expand over the next 100+ years. We are envisioning a
path that will guarantee the commercial feasibility of the Interplanetary Internet.
This commercialization path is divided in phases that are associated with time and major
Prior to explaining these phases, there are some principles and factors we have considered that
shaped these phases.
- Transportation costs are still extremely high, even for LEO. How much transportation costs
define the speed in which the economy will expand beyond LEO. For that reason,
and in order to support the commercial feasibility, and support the engineering needed to
for-space applications, we believe that any plan to commercialize in deep space
starts by being a participant in the LEO economy. We have then incorporated a phase zero
(P0), which is
focused on the LEO economy as the stepping-stone to support the Moon.
- Moving from the initial crewed missions to the Moon in 2024 to permanent settlements will
decade, and from there, establishing a Moon economy will take even longer. It is
critical to provide focused support to this endeavor as we consider investments beyond the
the time horizon, and the dramatic differences (especially in communications)
due to Mars distance to Earth compared to Moon. In addition, we know that NASA plans (at
2030) are not considering using commercial communications/networking service providers
and will rely on NASA Deep Space Network (in contrast to their plans of using a commercial
provider for the Moon). Commercial service providers such as SpaceX have more aggressive
plans for Mars, however, without a firm funding plan for other companies, the risks for
establishing a Mars economy are very high.
- Political environment might (and have traditionally) alter the longer-term goals and
timelines. It is
safe to assume that government plans beyond the Moon have high
probability of changing.
- Business Opportunities beyond Mars are currently not present due to the added
this adds uncertainty to commercial exploration timelines beyond Mars.
With the above considerations we have proposed the following commercialization timelines:
Figure. Interplanetary Internet Market Commercialization Phases.
Phase Zero - Beginning of LEO Economy and Moon Foundations [2022-2030]
The Commercial Interplanetary Internet for LEO will support the following communications
- LEO satellites to Earth: Using GSaaS - Ground Station as a Service, delivered
with small-satellite providers, will provide support for real time as well
as new delay tolerant networking with third party LEO satellites. Using the
network of ground stations around the world, it will be possible to service the
increasing set of CubeSats
and other projects that are aimed to democratize access to LEO.
Microsoft Azure Space
Amazon Ground Station
are good examples of what's coming.
- LEO Space Stations: LEO Interplanetary Internet Services (IIS) will provide
to support the International Space Station additional networking
needs as well as Axiom Space and other commercial modules. The IIS require high throughput
relay services at MEO/GEO together with networking capabilities to allow
for delay tolerant networking, to enable speeds from 50 Mbps to gigabits per seconds, as
required by the
different payloads. This service is important as it will unlock many
of the existing limitations on the ISS usage of commercial software, as well as enable a new
use cases that will be required once private astronauts start flying for
commercial activities (cellular service, video/filming, science and more).
In addition to LEO, the Commercial Interplanetary Internet will get ready to provide services to
- Missions to the Moon (2024-2030): A Commercial Interplanetary Moon Internet
(IMIS) will support the first missions to the moon, starting in
2024 with NASA missions, which plan to rely on a commercial space communication service.
This includes a
science mission to the far end of the Moon, and a human exploration
mission to the south pole of the Moon, both happening in 2024. The science mission to the
far end will
require the use of a satellite relay in Moon orbit given the mission
location. In addition to telemetry support, a low delay connection is desired to support
command. The human exploration mission requires high throughput from lunar
surface in support for video for Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA) which are expected.
Phase One - More LEO, beginning Moon economy and Mars kick-off [2031-2040]
In this phase, the Commercial Interplanetary Network will continue providing support for the
will provide support for more Moon missions and the first commercial endeavors on the Moon
related to the
Moon economy, and will
kick off its expansion to Mars as exploration plans solidifies. During this decade, we expect a
build out of
high-gain ground antennas
capable of reaching Moon and Mars in single configuration. We also expect the first Optical
to communicate to LEO and Moon.
- LEO Economy: In addition to the existing radio links, optical communications
deliver higher throughput to the LEO stations. We expect commercial space optical
(such as those provided by BridgeComm) will be available to expand the network. Optical
will be the foundation of the space optical network for high throughput non-critical
communications, due to its higher dependency on weather conditions. We also expect
service providers to continue enhancing their constellations by starting to introduce
optical capabilities during this decade.
- Moon Economy: As the economy on the Moon demands for better communications,
satellite capabilities will be enhanced with additional satellites in non-stationary orbit,
with direct to Earth connectivity as well as using the stationary satellite as a relay.
Towards the end
of this phase we also expect enhanced surface capabilities with the first commercial,
optical and RF commercial Moon-station, with support to direct-to-Earth as well as using the
- Mars: Commercial deep space ground station services to support missions to
this phase, through new high-gain RF antennas that will be the foundation to deep
space radio support.
- Additional capabilities: The Interplanetary network will extend the support
to support Mars (MarsNet) as well as the introduction of Cognitive capabilities
for automatic setup, security, reliability and reconfiguration, simplifying the management
of the Interplanetary Internet.
Phase Two - LEO Growth, Moon Consolidation and Mars Foundations [2040-2050]
In this phase, LEO will be an established market and still growing, we will see the first
settlements for commercial operations, and more activity in Mars. By the start of this
phase the Interplanetary Internet will be well established in LEO and Moon, and will provide
support for Mars.
- For LEO, we expect earth link-like speed, as we expect full data centers and larger
in LEO stations. For that inter-station optical links must be required. Radio
Frequency will continue operating both as backup and as links for critical operations (e.g.
- For Moon, we expect a complete Moon High-speed optical+RF satellite constellation to
delivering Gigabit per second speeds between Moon’s settlement(s) and Earth, also supporting
a Moon Wide Area Network through Moon ground station services.
- For Mars, we expect the first commercial satellites for communications based on RF and
configuration is still to be determined, depending on Space Agency and commercial
concrete plans and requirements.
- Networking capabilities will be fully cognitive by then, allowing for additional network
and autonomy, for example reconfiguring automatically for distress support and
other emergency situations.
Phase Three+ - LEO maturity, Moon Growth, Mars Foundations, and deeper space economy sprouts
During this period, we will see a continuous enhancement of the network capabilities in LEO and
Mars, due to the non-changing challenge that distance imposes, we expect a
slow, gradual growth of the economy, and networking and communications capabilities will
accordingly, e.g. by completing coverage via a satellite constellation and the first Mars
Ground station with optical and RF capabilities. We will likely see the first commercial
Mars using commercial ground stations (in array configuration) supporting communications
to Titan (and beyond). Extending our reach beyond Mars will heavily depend on the speed of
space economy. In terms of networking, network intelligence will reach peak
intelligence to perform traffic management as well as self-maintenance as required. During this
may see the irruption of quantum communications, which may represent a new
generation of physical and link layer devices, that although are optical-based, would represent
change in the lower layers of communications (modulation/encoding).
A commercial Interplanetary Internet blueprint.
This work was performed by team SPATIAM as part of ActInSpace 2020 international innovation
(French Space Agency) and supported by
(European Space Agency), for challenge "
you See me?
" sponsored by
. Team SPATIAM was named winner of the local US edition, and a global finalist out of 543