An old sci-fi classic ends with the words “keep watching the skies.” And that’s what UBS is telling investors to do if they’re hunting for a promising new area of the investing landscape.
The analyst Carl Berrisford says spending on satellite internet, space tourism, asteroid mining, and space-based manufacturing could triple to more than $1 trillion from $340 billion in the next 20 years. He says that a new space race is in its early stages and that the Trump administration’s call to have US astronauts return to the moon by 2024 could accelerate matters.
For now, Berrisford says the best way to gain exposure to the industry is to invest in publicly traded aerospace, satellite, and communications companies. Looking forward, he expects interest in the sector to surge after Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic start taking tourists to space in the new few years.
“These will be important catalysts for the space economy, awakening consumers and investors to the commercial possibilities of space, and creating demand for new applications, not unlike the trajectory of the online economy over the last 20 years,” Berrisford wrote in a recent note to clients.
Meanwhile, Berrisford says the cost of launching a satellite is likely to drop by 90% over the next decade, attracting investments from existing internet and communications companies as well as new players. While government spending on space is rising, a big portion of that money will come from individuals and fledgling companies.
“Many new private space ventures are likely to become profitable in the coming years, and we would be surprised to not see some of these new start-ups IPO given their capital intensity,” Berrisford said. “The area of greatest commercial potential here, in our view, will come from satellite broadband internet.”
Here is Berrisford’s rundown of today’s players in the space sector. Most are privately held, but Maxar Technologies, which owns DigitalGlobe and MacDonald Dettwiler, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
- Blue Origin (Space flight / launch provider) — A space flight and launch company that makes reusable rockets, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos
- Deep Space Industries (Asteroid miner) — Developing spacecraft technology and satellites
- DigitalGlobe (Satellite operator) — Has satellites in orbit that capture high-resolution images of Earth
- International Launch Services (Space flight / launch provider) — Provides launch services for satellite operators
- MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates (Satellite manufacturer) — Technology company working in communications and intelligence
- OneWeb (Satellite operator) — Communications company preparing to launch 900 internet satellites
- PlanetLabs (Satellite operator) — Designing satellites to map the entire planet
- Planetary Resources (Asteroid miner) — Gathering data for exploration and utilization of resources
- RocketLab (Space flight / launch provider) — Manufacturer trying to reduce the cost of space launches
- SpaceX (Space flight / launch provider) — Reusable rocket company founded and run by Tesla CEO Elon Musk
- Stratolaunch (Space flight / launch provider) — Intends to transport goods into low Earth orbit, founded by Paul Allen of Microsoft.
- Virgin Galactic (Space flight / launch provider) — Commercial spaceflight company founded by Richard Branson.
- Xcor Aerospace (Space flight / launch provider) — Spaceflight and rocket engine developer
- Bigelow Aerospace (Space accommodation) — Developing an expandable space station module