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Communicating the Space Ecosystem: The Next Frontier

  • Published
  • By Mrs. Rebecca Hodge

At the beginning of each episode of Star Trek, William Shatner spoke the familiar lines: “Space: the final frontier…” These words ushered in a fantastical opportunity to “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”[1] This Hollywood television series intrigued the world about what outer space could be and what potential mysteries await space travelers. The ambitious vision of space in science fiction of traveling to unknown inhabitable worlds, diplomatically engaging with new species, and medically intervening to cure unknown diseases from galaxies far away is now becoming tomorrow’s space ecosystem

Since the airing of Star Trek, mankind has taken great leaps into space. Today, thousands of satellites orbit the Earth, dozens of space probes explore the Solar System, and orbital telescopes photograph faraway galaxies. Humans are living in space for extended periods of time on the International Space Station. Space is becoming a new, untapped ecosystem for the world, in which each country, business, and citizen can participate. A space ecosystem can facilitate individual prestige, inspire national pride, and provide a ‘north star’ for nations to follow in pursuit of reaching the unknown and unexplored, influencing the next generation, and gaining wealth. Therefore, the United States must take the lead in communicating the space ecosystem to reach beyond state actors to all hopeful and necessary actors who are needed within the space ecosystem.

What is the space ecosystem?

While typically used to describe natural environments, the word ‘ecosystem’ can also be applied to space. Originally defined as “a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscapes, work together to form a bubble of life,” an ecosystem requires its key elements to “work together.”[2] The term ecosystem has already been broadened to other concepts such as a ‘family ecosystem’ or ‘economic ecosystem.’ In the latter case, ecosystems have been defined as “communities of hierarchically independent yet interdependent heterogeneous participants who collectively generate an ecosystem value proposition.”[3] Using this lens, a ‘space ecosystem’ can be viewed as those activities focused on a ‘value proposition’, for a cause greater than the individual entities can address on their own. The space ecosystem can mirror the automotive ecosystem model and communicate the value and impacts of a broad definition of space ecosystem. Influencing nations, companies, and individuals to invest resources into the space ecosystem will begin a new adventure in the 21st century to bring the fantastic Star Trek world to life.

Much like systems aboard a spaceship such as the USS Enterprise, there are the primary, secondary, and tertiary markets that support the space ecosystem. While some only think of the “space ecosystem” as engineering, policy, and procurement practices, this narrow focus fails to communicate a broader opportunity and potential value for citizens and partner nations.[4] By taking a broad and inclusive vision of a space ecosystem, potential markets can range from the obvious, such as rocket launch and propulsion, to peripheral markets, such as short and long-range communications, data processing, analytics, and storage, computer science and robotics, workforce development and training, linguistics, textile sciences, food sciences, medical sciences, manufacturing, trade skills, and security. Many of these existing industries do not understand how to leverage or adapt their skills or products for the space domain. This is an important missed opportunity, as there is evidence that shows that “small states can gain relevance within the space community by leveraging their unique attributes or identifying gaps in the space ecosystem.”[5] These specialized and unique industries can also be paramount to making major advancements in space; without the involvement from the textile sciences sector, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would have been unable to design and manufacture their space suit. The multi-billion dollar textile industry and others need to know that they have a vital role to space in the space ecosystem.[6]

Why a space ecosystem? A value proposition.

The future space ecosystem has the potential to bring great benefits in wealth and influence. Not only could it potentially bring in trillions of dollars with access to important natural materials, such as solar power, oxygen, and extra-terrestrial metals, it could elevate the prestige of those involved. The value proposition for each contributing stakeholder will be unique to their own interests, strengths, and requirements. Given the vastness of the domain, the potential opportunity for nations, corporations, and citizens to generate value from the space ecosystem is virtually limitless.

The automotive industry is an illustrative example of what the potential of the emerging space ecosystem could be for nations, corporations, and citizens. Thanks to the development of the assembly line, the production of cars was soon affordable for many households. While early adopters of automobiles had wealth, the mass-produced automobile generated an unexpected automotive ecosystem that created a new source of wealth. Small companies soon formed to support automotive manufacturing, whether it was supplying raw materials, making components, providing logistical management or vehicle maintenance. Repair stations and manufacturing lines required a resilient supply chain market sector for replacement parts which generated further revenue. The automotive ecosystem greatly expanded with the development of secondary and tertiary markets connected to the automobile: hotels, gas stations, radio stations, air fresheners, car seats, etc. All of these services and products contribute to the expansive automotive ecosystem, collectively working together for a cause greater than a singular entity.

While the expansion into secondary and tertiary markets normally occurs only after entrepreneurs conduct market research in their drive to expand their business, the space ecosystem needs some additional messaging to excite nations, corporations, and citizens to get started. Today, the average person only thinks of the space ecosystem as constellations of satellites and occasionally sending astronauts to the International Space Station. Yet, the space ecosystem is much more than those activities and platforms. Therefore, it is important to define the space ecosystem in a clear, obtainable way to make it easily recognizable as the next frontier.

The space ecosystem has the potential to be an identifiable brand generating billions of dollars of revenue. Venture capitalists believe that the potential space market could be worth over $1 trillion USD by 2030.[7] While the words space domain and space ecosystem are related, each word captures a different idea and identity. The United States Space Force Doctrine Note of January 2022 defines the space domain as “…the dynamic and complex environment above the altitude where atmospheric effects on airborne objects become negligible.”[8] Although the United States Government (USG) once dominated the space domain, it is no longer the leader in the volume of space launches each year.[9] As other nations, as well as the private sector, have increasingly moved into space activities, the USG must recognize this fundamental shift requires it to expand its thinking beyond the space domain. By acknowledging this transformation and advocating for greater accessibility to the space ecosystem, the USG can put its stamp on the space ecosystem brand. Therefore, it must champion the branding and value of the space ecosystem and advocate for accessibility and inclusion of all nations, corporations, and citizens around the world.


Advocating for the space ecosystem

For the USG to succeed in branding an accessible space ecosystem, a concerted effort must be made. One of the basic tenets of communication is that both the sender and the receiver have to understand each other in order for the information to be exchanged.[10] Through a comprehensive public relations (PR) campaign, the USG can communicate its message across all mediums with minimal noise. This campaign will need to communicate what the space ecosystem is and is not while formulating a value proposition equation that is uniquely suited to the type of potential actor, whether commercial or government. There will even be subsets of these types of actors, as contributors and consumers will have their own value proposition within the space ecosystem. For example, some may be driven by their desire to get to the market first, while others may strive for trust and cooperation for mutual prosperity. Rather than providing a solution to each actor, the PR campaign will shape their understanding of their potential contribution to the future space ecosystem. Therefore, this PR campaign will need metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of its messages that target the small and large subsets of the space ecosystem. The PR campaign should persist, actively communicating the potential wealth, prestige, or mutual prosperity gained by entering the space ecosystem. Success is a thriving space ecosystem, with participation across all industrial sectors, nations, and corporations.

The Real Space Ecosystem…“To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before”

A thriving space ecosystem can facilitate individual prestige, foster national pride, and inspire other nations to follow in pursuit of reaching the unknown and unexplored. The United States must take the lead in space ecosystem advocacy, which requires reaching beyond other state actors. By energizing all hopeful private sector actors needed within the future space ecosystem, the US can inspire the replication and expansion beyond the unforeseen boom of the automotive ecosystem. The space ecosystem is already evolving and growing as countries of all sizes and for-profit corporations begin to get involved in space.[11] While venture capitalists have recognized the potential for enormous wealth, it is not yet part of the public consciousness around the world. Successful PR campaigns should span mediums, break through cultural boundaries, and inspire nations and corporations to see themselves participating in the space ecosystem. The United States must take the lead with this multinational, multi-corporation challenge by setting the vision for, enabling the development of, and sustaining a lasting space ecosystem.

Such efforts will require a visionary, inspirational, long-game strategy for a space ecosystem will be an evolutionary and ambitious process. Great visionaries of the past and present, such as Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Walt Disney, and Elon Musk, defied critics of being too ambitious and ahead of their time. History proved critics wrong, as the risk these visionaries took to overcome obstacles and challenges were insufficient to derail their ambitious pursuits. While the pursuit of a space ecosystem is not without risk, it is important that we take the initial brave step now. The Next Frontier awaits.


Mrs. Rebecca Hodge
Rebecca Hodge previously served as the Lead Nuclear Analyst and Acting Director, Strategic Deterrence and Capabilities in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment.  She earned her MS in Nuclear Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park and is currently pursuing her MS in Strategic Studies at the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama.  Her experience in industry and the government includes supporting multiple programs across multiple Services advancing nuclear modernization within the Department.  Mrs. Hodge is a member of Cohort 23 of the Defense Senior Leader Development Program.



[1]“Still from Star Trek Opening Credits,” National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institute, accessed on November 30, 2023,

[2] “Encyclopedia Entry: Ecosystem”, National Geographic Society, last modified October 19, 2023,

[3] Llewellyn D. Thomas and Paavo Ritala, “Ecosystem legitimacy emergence: A collective action view.” Journal of Management 48, no. 3 (2021): 515–541,

[4] John Olson, Steven Butow, Eric Felt, and Thomas Cooley, “State of the Space Industrial Base 2022: Infrastructure & Services for Economic Growth and National Security,” ed. Peter Garretson, November 2021,

[5] See Mark Waters, “Small States in Space: Space Club Relevancy and national Interest Influence,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs 6, no. 4 (May-June 2023):13-47.

[6] Tugba Sabanoglu, “Value of the leading global textile exporters in 2022, by country,” Statista, last modified September 29, 2023.

[7] “A giant leap for the space industry,” McKinsey & Company, last modified updated January 19, 2023,

[8] US Department of the Air Force, Space Force, Space Doctrine Note (SDN) Operations (Colorado Springs, CO: Department of the Air Force, January 2022), 5.

[9] Olson, Butow, Felt, Cooley, State of the Space Industrial Base 2022, 8.

[10] Richard Nordquist, "The Basic Elements of the Communication Process," ThoughtCo., August 25, 2020,

[11] See Waters, “Small States in Space.”

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