Market Snapshot: Space Mining

It’s not difficult to imagine miners panning for gold during the 1800s, but what exactly would mining in space look like? That is one area that NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is looking to develop.

Missions like the Lunar Prospector, Chandrayaan-1, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) have taught us that ice, referred to as “water ice” exists on the poles of the Moon, and it is present in permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), where temperatures are low enough to keep water in a solid form despite the lack of atmospheric pressure. However, unsurprisingly, there are a few challenges that come with mining on the moon. For example, desorption and sublimation can occur at temperatures as low as 150 K, and the inverse challenge exists with water collection – unless the water vapor is under pressure, extremely cold temperatures will be necessary to capture it. To address this, NASA is seeking methods to acquire lunar water ice from PSRs and, oxygen from lunar water. While a lunar water prospecting mission is needed to fully understand the utilization potential of water on the lunar surface, NASA recognizes the need to make progress on the technology needed to extract oxygen from dry lunar regolith – a blanket of dust, broken rocks and other superficial deposits layered on the rock surface of the moon.

Mining in space isn’t just interesting to read about, the market potential for this area is growing. MarketsandMarkets reports that the space mining market was valued at $0.49 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $2.84 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.6%. The US is expected to grow at the highest CAGR due to the upcoming space exploration and mining missions by NASA and private players in the U.S., such as Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, increasing investments by private players in asteroid mining companies, and growing number of government initiatives to boost space exploration activities. The U.S. government updated commercial space legislation with the passage of the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015 (also known as Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act) in November 2015, which explicitly allows US citizens to engage in commercial exploration and exploitation of space resources, such as water and minerals. Additionally, the U.S. Space Force (USSF), the newest branch of the Armed Forces, was established in December 2019 with enactment of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

In addition to lunar water ice from the PSRs, data from NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft uncovered new evidence that the Moon may be rich in metals such as iron and titanium. The hypothesis is that large meteors hitting the Moon have excavated these metal oxides from beneath the Moon’s surface – suggesting concentrations of the metal underground. Previous research and geological surveys have shown than the Moon contains three crucial resources: water, helium-3, and rare earth metals. While enabling technologies are still under investigation, one technique that has recently generated interest is “ablative arc mining,” which is part of a project led by Amelia Greig, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Aerospace Center at the University of Texas in El Paso. Dr. Greig’s project was recently chosen as part of the Phase I Fellows program for NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concept (NIAC). Other innovative ideas are likely to emerge during Lunabotics, NASA Kennedy Space Center’s robotic mining competition, which is one of NASA’s Artemis Student Challenges – when registration closed in September, more than 50 teams had registered to compete in the 2021 challenge. 

Today, major players and space agencies in the space mining market include Deep Space Industries (US); Planetary Resources (US); Moon Express (US); ispace (Japan); Asteroid Mining Corporation (UK); Shackleton Energy Company (SEC, US); Kleos Space (Luxembourg); TransAstra (US); OffWorld (US); SpaceFab.US (US); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, US); European Space Agency (ESA, France); Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, Japan); China National Space Administration (CNSA, China); and Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS, Russia).

Looking ahead, Earth & Space 2021: Engineering for Extreme Environments will be held VIRTUALLY April 19-23, 2021 and will include a symposium on Exploration and Utilization of Extra-Terrestrial Bodies. The Space Resources Roundtable (SRR) and the Planetary & Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium will hold their 11th joint meeting virtually the week of June 7-11, 2021.


Market Snapshot: On Farm Natural Resources and Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is a popular topic these days with new users and application areas maturing in all sectors. As agriculture begins to incorporate renewable energy into everyday operations, innovative technologies and initiatives can help promote energy efficiency and conservation. The use of renewable energy in agriculture holds the promise of reducing operation costs, increasing energy efficiency, and increasing profits while utilizing natural resources. Given the availability of resources in this sector – wind, solar, geothermal energy, and other feedstocks – the potential to create scalable solutions that serve multiple and individual farms is increasing.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of U.S. farms fell sharply until the early 1970s after peaking at 6.8 million farms in 1935. However, while the number of U.S. farms has continued to decline since the 1970s, the rate of decline has slowed. In the most recent USDA survey there were 2.02 million U.S. farms in 2019 utilizing 897 million acres of land. The average farm size was 444 acres, which is slightly greater than the 440 acres recorded in the early 1970s. In 2019, family farms, commonly defined as a farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator, accounted for nearly 98 percent of U.S. farms, and small family farms accounted for 90 percent of all U.S. farms. By contrast, large-scale family farms, make up about 3% of farms but 44 percent of the value of production.

So, what does the number of farms mean for energy use? The EPA reports that agriculture accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and that doesn’t include land and water usage. This sector both uses and produces energy, which makes energy an expense as well as a source of potential income. On-farm renewable energy generation is seen as offering the opportunity to diversify farm business and offset emissions from other farm activities while reducing energy costs. To realize these goals, farmers are tapping into the wide range of options for renewable energy generation. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the number of farms with renewable energy producing systems increased from 57,299 in 2012 to 133,176 in 2017.

While not every option will be suitable for every farm, the following list provides a brief overview of some of these sources.

  • Bioenergy: Biomass energy can be made up of sugars and oils from plants and used to make fuel for vehicles (Biofuel or Biodiesel). Additionally, the burning of biomass for heat or electricity is simply called Biopower. Both of these offer the potential for generation and use in the agricultural sector and beyond.
  • Geothermal: Geothermal energy can be expensive to set-up, but reports indicate that the long-term benefit makes this cost worthwhile to farmers. In this case, farm buildings could use geothermal heat pumps to exchange air temperature and ground temperature year round, keeping buildings cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • Solar: Agricultural applications of solar energy can take many forms, some of which have been used for years. For example, the sun’s energy can be used for passive heating of greenhouses or as solar thermal heating for hot water systems. With photovoltaics (PV) solar energy can be used to produce electricity. Farm-produced solar energy can be sold as a commodity or used to power the farm itself.
  • Wind: With wind energy, turbines produce electricity from wind, and can provide a large portion of the average power needed by a farm. However the turbines must be located in high wind areas and typically require at least one acre of land to produce enough energy.
  • Hydropower: Hydropower is also dependent upon the farm’s location – for this form of renewable energy the force of fast moving, falling, or flowing water is used to produce or capture energy. In agriculture, on-farm hydropower generation can be used to power the farm directly, or it can be connected to the electrical grid to offset electricity consumption.

The USDA offers a variety of links and resources for this topic and provides information on work being done in this area by other agencies as well as by individual states. A listing of agriculture conferences scheduled for 2021 is available here.

Market Snapshot: Biofuels

While it may seem like anything can be turned into renewable energy these days, biomass is unique in that it can be converted directly into liquid fuels, called biofuels to help meet transportation fuel needs. The two most common types of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel, these are also known as “drop-in” fuels, meaning they can serve as petroleum substitutes in existing refineries, tanks, pipelines, pumps, vehicles, and smaller engines.

According to BCC Research, the global liquid biofuels market should reach $153.8 billion by 2024 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.2% for the forecast period of 2019 to 2024. The following sections break this broader market down into the markets for ethanol and biodiesel.

Ethanol is an alcohol most commonly made by fermenting any biomass high in carbohydrates through a process similar to beer brewing, but it can also be produced by a process called gasification, which uses high temperatures and a low-oxygen environment to convert biomass into synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The resulting synthesis gas (syngas) can then be chemically converted into ethanol and other fuels. Typically, ethanol is used as a blending agent with gasoline to increase octane and cut down carbon monoxide and other smog-causing emissions. MarketsandMarkets reports that the global bioethanol market is projected to grow from $33.7 billion in 2020 to $64.8 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 14.0%, from 2020 to 2025. Demand for bioethanol is driven by the mandatory use of bioethanol fuel blends in many countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase the fuel efficiency of the vehicles.

In terms of the different fuel blends, the E10 segment is projected to be the largest market for bioethanol given that European countries and other regions have mandated the use of E10 fuel blends in vehicles to lower the GHGs emission rate. Additionally, a small percentage of bioethanol can be mixed with the pure gasoline to prepare bioethanol blends, which burn more efficiently and produce zero carbon emission. As a result, the use of bioethanol fuel blends is mandated in many countries around the world. Based on these factors, transportation is projected to be the largest end-use segment of the bioethanol market in terms of value and volume.

Biodiesel, the other biofuel, is made by combining alcohol with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease, and can be used as an additive to reduce vehicle emissions or in its pure form as a renewable alternative fuel for diesel engines. Although the pace of research interest had slowed, research into the production of liquid transportation fuels from microscopic algae, or microalgae, is on the upswing at NREL. According to BCC Research, the global market for biodiesel reached $35.1 billion in 2019 and should reach $49.2 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 7.0% for the period of 2019-2024.

Oil crops such as rapeseed, palm, or soybean are the largest source of biodiesel, which makes it a sustainable alternative compared to conventional diesel. Furthermore, biodiesel meets both the biomass-based diesel and overall advanced biofuel requirement of the Renewable Fuel Standard – it also meets specifications created by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) for legal diesel motor fuel (ASTM D975) and the definition for biodiesel itself (ASTM D6751). Pure biodiesel is referred as B100 (100% biodiesel) but is rarely used given that existing diesel engines may not be suitable for pure biodiesel. Therefore, just as with ethanol, blends are used that have a certain proportion of biodiesel mixed with fossil diesel. Most of the current diesel engines are capable of handling biodiesel blended fuels – the most common blends currently in use are B5 (up to 5% biodiesel) and B20 (6% to 20% biodiesel).

In February of 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Renewable Fuel Standard Program: Standards for 2020 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2021 and Other Changes which set renewable fuel percentage standards every year. The close ties between the agriculture industry, transportation, and others is also an important area for growth, in May of 2020 the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to make available up to $100 million in competitive grants for activities designed to expand the availability and sale of renewable fuels under the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). Looking for more? The Europe & North America Advanced Biofuels Summit 2021 will be held virtually in April 2021.

Market Snapshot: Emerging Applications for Low Noise Amplifiers (LNAs)

Recent Press Releases

Market Snapshot: Emerging Applications for Low Noise Amplifiers (LNAs)

As the Department of Defense (DoD), SpaceX and commercial vendors look to increase connectivity and expand available bandwidth, innovators are exploring new ways to fulfill this need. One such approach is through the use of E-band. Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission established that portions of E-band are available in the U.S. for high density, high data rate wireless services that will enable point-to-point communications, SATCOM, and 5G services. Furthermore, the International Telecommunication Union has permitted several bands for radio and satellite operations with SpaceX applying to use portions of E-band in their Starlink Gen2 satellite constellation. The use of E-band offers the potential for many new opportunities, including new high-resolution imaging and surveillance sensors for DoD systems and commercial applications such as autonomous vehicles.

So, what is E-band, and how can it be leveraged for commercial use? In brief, the waveguide E-band is in the EHF range of the radio spectrum (60 GHz to 90 GHz) which corresponds to the recommended frequency band of operation of WR12 waveguides. These frequencies are equivalent to wave lengths between 5 mm and 3.333 mm. In October 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that spectrum at 71 to 76 GHz, 81 to 86 GHz and 92 to 95 GHz would be available for high-density, fixed wireless services in the United States. In June 2020, SpaceX applied for use of the E-Band in the Starlink Gen2 constellation. Generation 2 Starlink Gen2 satellites will include 71 – 79 GHz and 81 – 86 GHz operational frequencies. To operate in this range, low noise amplifiers (LNAs) are used to amplify a low strength signal to a significantly high power level while minimizing noise signals to improve the output. Low noise amplifiers are typically made using the following materials: silicon-based LNA, gallium arsenide based LNA and silicon-germanium based LNA.

Low noise amplifiers are most commonly used for radar and communication systems in satellites, aircrafts, and ships, but are also finding opportunities in wireless infrastructure, wireless LAN interfaces, cellular telephone, GPS, LTE, set-top boxes and biomedical devices. The market for LNAs is expected to grow in healthcare, aerospace & defense, consumer electronics, automotive and other applications through the increasing adoption of low noise amplifiers in consumer electronics as well as the healthcare industry. With the United States, South Korea and Japan launching 5G networks, the market potential for low noise amplifiers, which are extensively used in mm-wave phase array technology used in 5G wireless cellular technology, is growing. IndustryARC reports that the global low noise amplifier (LNA) market is estimated to surpass $4.25bn by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 15.23% during the forecast period 2018-2024. This growth is being driven by the increasing design complexity in consumer electronics and the rapid adoption of LTE technology.

Analysts report that some of the key players in the global low-frequency amplifiers market are NXP Semiconductors N.V. (the Netherlands), Analog Devices, Inc. (U.S.), Infineon Technologies AG (Germany), L3 Narda-MITEQ (U.S.), Qorvo, Inc. (U.S.), Skyworks Solutions, Inc. (U.S.), ON Semiconductor Corp. (U.S.), Panasonic Corp. (Japan), Texas Instruments, Inc. (U.S.), Teledyne Microwave Solutions (U.S.), Atmel Corporation (U.S.), Microchip Technology Inc. (U.S.), Toshiba Corporation (Japan), Diodes Incorporated (U.S.) and more. These players are said to make up a highly fragmented market that looks to mergers & acquisitions, innovation, and brand reinforcement among the leading players to maintain and grow their position in the market. This potential and growth is illustrated in the May 2020 SpaceX Application For Approval For Orbital Deployment And Operating Authority For The SpaceX GEN2 NGSO Satellite System before the Federal Communications Commission which discusses the use of E-band in emerging communications applications.

Market Snapshot: Respiratory Virus Detection

The need for rapid, non-invasive, and accurate testing for viral respiratory infections has perhaps never felt greater. Presently, researchers, public health officials, and others are looking into the plausibility and potential for a mobile, handheld, or badge-type detection system as a diagnostic tool to screen breath for the presence of communicable respiratory viral infections, particularly those with pandemic potential. These tools could be used as a personal health monitor or at check points in office buildings, arenas, airports, subway systems, and borders. Fortunately, advances in the development and adoption of point-of-care testing (POCT) solutions may provide solutions to this challenge by quickly identify infectious diseases and providing actionable information to improve disease management.

While COVID-19 has opened up the market for point of care testing of respiratory infections and driven competition in this space, the market includes the need for testing of approximately 20 different respiratory pathogens. Multiplexed point-of-care testing (xPOCT) refers to the simultaneous on-site detection of different analytes from a single specimen and is reportedly creating market confusion while also lowering costs and improving care. Given the pervasive nature of common respiratory infections, as well as the pandemic potential of others such as COVID-19, the potential market is enormous. Respiratory diseases are already the largest infectious disease category and could multiply in size providing a growth opportunity for diagnostic companies. 

According to a report from ResearchDive, the respiratory disease testing industry in 2020 was valued at $10.6 billion before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) was 8.4% during the forecast period of 2020—2026. However, the CAGR of the global industry is now expected to be 9.2% throughout the estimated timeframe, 2020—2027 based on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with the market size projected to cross $20.1 billion by 2027. While COVID-19 diagnostics is dominating the headlines, the total respiratory disease test market consists of diagnosis, severity assessment, treatment monitoring, and evaluation of prognosis in conditions such as influenza, asthma, tuberculosis, pneumoconioses, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obliterative bronchiolitis, mesothelioma, and silicosis. 

There are two main types of POCT used today, immunoassay-based tests and molecular tests. The immunoassay tests detect analytes extracted from a potentially infected patient, and then assessed for microbial antigens and host antibodies. Molecular POCT are polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based tests which have a higher sensitivity and specificity compared to immunoassay tests or rapid antigen detection tests (RADT).  MarketsandMarkets reports that the global point of care molecular diagnostics market was valued at $632.5 million in 2017 and is projected to reach $1,440.2 million in 2023, at a CAGR of 14.7%. However, the molecular diagnostics segment only makes up 20% of the infectious disease POCT market in the United States. Despite this small percentage, North America is expected to account for the largest share of the global POC molecular diagnostics market. This is attributed to the growing prevalence of infectious diseases, increasing number of CLIA product approvals, and rising government initiatives – however, Asia Pacific is expected to grow at highest CAGR.

Frost & Sullivan provides extensive coverage on these markets and reports that near-patient testing may provide more accurate results than when patient samples have to be transported to laboratories, mistakes carried out during sample handling prior to testing can lead to a 32-75% margin of error, which can cost anywhere from $200 to $2000 per incident. Furthermore, the molecular POC tests have clinically proven better sensitivity and specificity (>95% on an average). The following are identified as major growth areas in this market:

  • New multiplexing ecosystems able to test for multiple infectious diseases
  • Smartphone-based POCT
  • Biochip Array Technology (BAT)
  • Lab-in-a-Drop
  • Host Biomarkers
  • Paper-based Assays (PBA)
  • Portable Molecular Diagnostics (MDx)

While POCT is an established market, technology gaps exist with these test methods, according to a May 2020 research paper which reports that traditional approaches based on pathogen DNA/RNA and protein detection using, respectively, PCR‐based or protein‐based methods in traditional laboratory instruments are not useful when looking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections. Additionally, today a Respiratory Pathogens Panel (RP panel) is only performed using one of two semi-invasive methods, nasopharyngeal swab or nasal aspirate. However, researchers are working to develop less invasive, rapid test methods that include breath analysis. Recently, a pilot study out of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia  analyzed the breath composition of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19) and discovered six volatile organic compounds more common in infected patients which helps researchers to develop a framework upon which to build a future ‘breathalyzer’ test for SARS-CoV-2 infection in children. Looking to the future, a triad of approaches (human, animal, and in vitro cell culture studies) has allowed researchers to identify candidate breath biomarkers that can be carried forward into larger studies.

Market Snapshot: Supply Chain Security

We all remember saying, “Where is all of the toilet paper?!” With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains – something we tend to take for granted – began gaining increased attention. Supply chains effect everything from the delivery of materials from a supplier to the manufacturer all the way through to its eventual delivery to the end user. In addition to these noteworthy challenges, the need to provide enhanced security in supply chain transactions is garnering increasing attention. Enter – blockchain – a method that will provide increased security and minimize cyberattacks on the supply chain.

MarketsandMarkets reports that post-COVID-19, the global logistics & supply chain industry market size is expected to grow at a Y-O-Y rate of 17.6% from 2020 to 2021, to reach $3,215 billion in 2021, up from $2,734 billion in 2020. This growth is primarily driven by the increasing supply of essential commodities, the creation of supply chain stabilization task force to fight COVID-19, and growing demand and distribution of personal protective equipment. With this overall growth comes an Increasing need for supply chain transparency and a rising demand for enhanced security of supply chain transactions. According to MarketsandMarkets, the global blockchain supply chain market size was $82.1 million in 2017 and is projected to reach $3,314.6 million by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 87.0% during the forecast period.

The blockchain supply chain market ecosystem is made up of notable vendors, such as IBM (US), Microsoft (US), Oracle (US), SAP SE (Germany), AWS (US), Huawei (China), Bitfury (Netherlands), Auxesis Group (India), TIBCO Software (US), BTL Group (Canada), Applied Blockchain (UK), Guardtime (Estonia), Nodalblock (Spain), Peer Ledger (Canada), Blockverify (UK), TransChain (France), RecordsKeeper (Spain), Datex Corporation (US), Ownest (France), Omnichain (US), Traceparency (France), Digital Treasury Corporation (China), Chainvine (UK), VeChain (China), Algorythmix (India), and OpenXcell (US). These players tend to favor partnerships and new product launches as the key growth strategies to offer feature-rich blockchain technology solutions to their customers and further penetrate regions with unmet needs. Other stakeholders of the blockchain supply chain market include cryptocurrency vendors, research organizations, network and system integrators, blockchain service providers, distributed ledger technology solution providers, and technology providers.

Today, big data has become a key element in building business development strategies, and while the logistics and supply chain industry continue to grow, so does the amount of data generated. This increase in data coupled with the persistent requirement for a unified cost-saving solution is expected to drive demand for advanced analytics solutions across industry verticals. Additionally, as companies look to identify opportunities for cost-cutting and resource-savings, supply chain optimization grows in importance. Therefore, access to secure, accurate supply chain analytics provides companies with valuable insights into the root causes of losses and successes. The global supply chain analytics market size is expected to grow from $3.5 billion in 2020 to $8.8 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 19.8% during the forecast period.

Enhancing supply chain security across government and industry is a key pillar of the National Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States 2020-2022, and in October 2020 the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) released a new document, Supply Chain Risk Management: Reducing Threats to Key U.S. Supply Chains, to help private sector and U.S. Government stakeholders mitigate risks to America’s critical supply chains.  NIST also hosted virtual workshop in October 2020 building upon its prior guidance documents, Blockchain Technology, and Securing Manufacturing Industrial Control Systems.

Market Snapshot: Space Communications

Need to take a video call on the moon? Sure, why not! Maybe even check your email too. Earlier this year NASA granted Nokia a contract to build the first-ever 4G mobile network on the moon that will allow astronauts to carry out a number of activities including making voice and video calls in support of NASA’s Artemis program that plans to establish a “sustainable” human presence to the moon by 2028.

While the contract with Nokia is one piece of this effort, developing enabling communications technologies for small spacecraft beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will be a complex task. In order for spacecraft to conduct NASA lunar and deep space distributed spacecraft science missions innovators are looking for ways to best construct the lunar communications architecture, potentially through the use of large and small satellite assets. These enabling technologies may include data relay from lunar surface to surface, data relay to Earth, and navigational aids to surface and orbiting users, and are essential to the success of human exploration missions.

In its coverage of space exploration technologies and markets, BCC Research and its network of partners indicate that the recent ramp-up by NASA as it revitalizes its commitment to the Moon, Mars and other planetary exploration is providing new and exciting opportunities for companies involved in optics, photonics, and other areas. The Global Deep Space Exploration and Technology Market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 6.42% from 2020 to 2030 with North America expected to dominate the market with an estimated share of 62.45% in 2020. The global deep space exploration and technology market is becoming increasingly important due to efforts from the national space agencies and the subsequent rise in investment for deep space exploration missions. The development of new technologies and emergence of private entities in the space sector are some of the factors that may drive market growth.

Ground station equipment is one such enabling space communications area – BCC Research reports that the global space ground station equipment market forecasts that the market will grow at a CAGR of 4.32% by value and 3.81% by volume from 2019 to 2024. North America dominated the global space ground station equipment market. These ground stations are terrestrial radio stations designed to provide a connecting path for telecommunication of spacecraft with the end-user devices and are used on the earth surface to communicate with the satellites in real time using radio frequency waves. The ground station is made up of several components such as antenna system, telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) equipment, control center, RF equipment, and gateways. In addition to the ground stations, there is customer equipment which communicates directly with satellites or through gateways of ground stations, which accounts for a large segment of the global space ground station equipment market.

While NASA already relies on commercial and university ground stations to provide 67 percent of communications and tracking for its Near-Earth Network, shifting even more to commercial communications services is expected to free up personnel and resources within NASA to focus on technology development and bolster the commercial space economy. Free-space optical (FSO) laser communications is seen as one of the enabling technologies for advancements in commercial space ground station communications and is already being explored by The University of Western Australia (UWA) and an industry partner. MarketsandMarkets reports that the overall FSO market is expected to grow from $402 million in 2020 to $1,977 million by 2025 at a CAGR of 37.5% during 2020–2025 with applications in a variety of vertical ranging from healthcare to aerospace and defense.

Other communications efforts include replacing the incumbent Space Network, which provides communications for more than 40 missions by leveraging commercial technologies and players to develop and deploy an interoperable network of networks that may operate like a terrestrial cellular model allowing user missions to roam between several providers. This effort is currently called the Communications Services Program out of the NASA Glenn Research Center where a briefing to industry was provided in mid-2020.

Market Snapshot: Trends in Solar Energy

The amount of electricity generated by solar energy in the U.S. is increasing. In 2010 less than 0.1% of electricity generation came from solar energy – in 2020 this has increased to nearly 3%. In some states, solar accounts for approximately 20% of all electricity generated. Additionally, the cost of solar electricity is decreasing due to global economies of scale, technology innovation, and greater confidence in PV technology.

This growth is not only being seen in traditional installations but is also making inroads in nontraditional applications. From space travel to drones and vehicles, solar energy is an exciting field. In BCC Research’s coverage of the solar energy market, it reports that the global market for solar power technologies should grow from $143.3 billion in 2018 to $286.3 billion by 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.9% during the forecast period of 2018-2023. BCC Research published a report covering space-based solar power (SSP) – space is among the new frontiers for solar power, and SSP is expected to play an important role in the future of power generation given its seemingly limitless potential. While certain challenges and limitations exist for SSP, including transporting the solar panels to space, other innovations are helping to overcome these challenges. For example, the development of reusable rockets is expected to enable the development of space-based solar power and help meet Earth-based energy needs.

Solar power innovations mostly occur in two technology areas, solar photovoltaics (PV) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). Solar cells are also referred to as photovoltaic cells and convert sunlight directly into electricity. BCC Research reports that the global market for alternative solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies should grow from $1.9 billion in 2018 to nearly $2.3 billion by 2023 with a CAGR of 3.6% for the period of 2018-2023. Some of the key technologies in this area include key technologies like CIS/CIGS, CdTe, a-Si, DSSC and OPV, and more. The largest PV systems in the country are located in California and produce power for utilities to distribute to their customers. The Solar Star PV power station produces 579 megawatts of electricity, while the Topaz Solar Farm and Desert Sunlight Solar Farm each produce 550 megawatts.

MarketsandMarkets provides coverage of many different solar energy technologies, including solar vehicles, solar lighting, Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), different solar materials, and more. Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is achieved when solar energy is collected using mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto receivers and convert this energy into heat, which may be used to produce electricity using a steam turbine or heat engine driving a generator. The global CSP market is projected to reach $7.6 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 16.4%, from an estimated $3.5 billion in 2020. Market drivers include: environmental concerns over carbon emissions; efforts to reduce air pollution; including policy support from governments for renewable technologies; and the integrability of CSP systems with thermal storage systems. Furthermore, hybrid power plants use two or more technologies and may include oil, natural gas, biomass, hydropower, geothermal power, storage, solar CSP, solar PV, wind turbines, coal, or nuclear power to generate electricity or any other products, such as hydrogen. CSP offers the potential for hybridization with different energy sources ranging from conventional fossil fuels to biomass and other concentrating solar power or other renewable combinations.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been at the forefront of solar energy technology development. Its Solar Energy Technologies Office provides valuable resources and information on this renewable energy source. However, interest in solar energy extends beyond DOE. The Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA are also on the cutting edge of solar energy technology and development. NREL is partnering with both DoD and NASA on a variety of projects. Through the continued exploration of novel application areas, it appears that the sky, and beyond, is the limit for solar energy.


Market Snapshot: Aquaculture

Aquaculture is playing an increasingly important role in global food security – with wild seafood production under threat due to overfishing and other issues, farmed seafood is one approach to mitigating this challenge. Today, aquaculture supplies over half of all seafood produced for human consumption, and this amount is expected to increase across the globe. Presently, the U.S. imports 90% of its seafood, half of which is from aquaculture, yet only 5% of U.S. seafood supply is from domestic freshwater and marine aquaculture. Given this imbalance, the $1 billion value of total U.S. freshwater and marine aquaculture production is overshadowed by the global aquaculture production of $100 billion. While U.S. marine aquaculture is small, NOAA reports that it is growing at 8% per year and is poised for additional growth as certain segments, including oyster farming, continue to expand.

MarketsandMarkets provides extensive coverage of the aquaculture industry through a series of reports covering several different market segments. As a whole, the aquaculture market is projected to grow from $30.1 billion in 2018 to $42.6 billion by 2023, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2% during the forecast period. This growth is attributed to the growing consumption of fish for its nutritional value, and the rising trend of smart fishing coupled with the increase in seafood trade. The marine culture segment is projected to be the fastest-growing segment of the aquaculture market due to the rising demand for seafood products and declining capture from ocean fishing. However, ocean cage culturing of marine fish has driven the design of new and innovative cages for near-shore and offshore environments, and advancements in recirculation systems, feeding systems, and other technologies are providing growth opportunities for the marine aquaculture system. Unsurprisingly, the equipment segment is estimated to dominate the aquaculture market.

Precision aquaculture, which provides more control and economic yield is growing. It is estimated to be worth $398 million in 2019 and is projected to reach $764 million by 2024; growing at a CAGR of 14.0% from 2019 to 2024. This growth is being driven by a variety of factors, including the rapid adoption of advanced technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), feeding robots, and underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) on aquaculture farms. The increasing investment and rising R&D expenditure in aquaculture technology worldwide coupled with the growing popularity of land-based recirculating aquaculture systems is helping push growth. Furthermore, the automation of aquaculture farms reduces labor costs, increases operational efficiency, and leads to higher farm yields. BCC Research also provides coverage on aquaculture, including information on several unique segments of this space. In addition to its coverage of the total market, BCC Research databases and partners report that the global aquaculture vaccines market was valued at $190 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $300.25 million by 2026, and the global warm water aquaculture feed market is forecast to reach $59.67 million by 2026.

Given the global nature of the aquaculture market, international cooperation and oversight is a key aspect of this unique space. of The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that provides information and services related to food security – including comprehensive reporting on food-related topics, including aquaculture. Its bi-annual series, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture provides guidelines on sustainable aquaculture growth, and on social sustainability along value chains in this industry. Now on its 25th anniversary edition in 2020, the report provides over 200 pages covering trade and production statistics, industry trends, and more. On the domestic front, the USDA participates in interdepartmental coordination activities through the NSTC Subcommittee on Aquaculture and coordinates activities within the Department through its Working Group on Aquaculture to:

  1. Continually Improve USDA Customer Service to Aquaculture Community; and
  2. Provide USDA Support for a Federal Economic Development Initiative on Aquaculture.

More specifically, the Working Group is developing requirements assigned to USDA in the President’s May 2020 Executive Order “Promoting American Seafood Competitiveness and Economic Growth.” Seventeen USDA Agencies fall under eight Mission Areas to support aquaculture through their leadership across seven program areas. The FAO, USDA, and NOAA all provide extensive resources on their websites and offer access to conferences and other opportunities.

Market Snapshot: Space Propulsion Systems

Are we there yet? It might seem like a common enough question, but when it comes to space exploration, travel time makes a big difference. The future of space exploration and travel will require demanding propulsive performance and flexibility for more ambitious missions requiring high duty cycles, more challenging environmental conditions, and extended operation. These capabilities may be achieved through the innovation and development of advanced in-space propulsion systems designed to reduce travel time, increase payload mass, reduce acquisition costs, reduce operational costs, and enable new science capabilities for exploration and science spacecraft.

BCC Research indicates that the space propulsion system market is expected to grow rapidly due to a significant increase in satellites and launch vehicle manufacturing; this increase has been enabled by recent innovations in components allowing a wider segment of consumers in the industry to have access to space propulsion system technology. Additionally, a significant investment in the development of cost-effective and efficient propulsion systems is a leading growth driver in this market. Furthermore, the development of emerging technologies, including, air-breathing propulsion systems, electric propulsion systems, and reusable propulsion systems, are expected to drive growth in the global space propulsion system market. In terms of how much revenue this generated – the global space propulsion system market generated a revenue of $5.63 billion in the year 2018.

MarketsandMarkets also provides coverage of the space propulsion systems market and offers insights into factors impacting this space, including COVID-19. The space propulsion market faced a slight decline from 2018 to 2019 due to a decrease in the number of space launches, and COVID-19 has also affected the import and export trading activities in the space industry. However, the expected rise in space launches from 2021 and beyond will drive the space propulsion market. Taking these and other factors into consideration, MarketsandMarkets reports that the global space propulsion market will grow from $6.7 billion in 2020 to $14.2 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.2% from 2020 to 2025.  The rapid spread of COVID-19 in Europe, the U.S., and Asia Pacific has led to a significant drop in demand for space propulsion system globally, with a corresponding reduction in revenues for various suppliers and service providers across all markets due to late delivery, manufacturing shutdown, the limited staff at manufacturing facilities, and limited availability of equipment. However, industry experts believe that global space propulsion demand is anticipated to recover by 2022.

While space launches are exciting, they can produce a sizeable carbon footprint due to the burning of solid rocket fuels – the exhaust is filled with materials that can collect in the air over time, potentially altering the atmosphere in dangerous ways along with small pieces of soot and a chemical called alumina that are created in the wakes of rocket launches. These materials may build up in the stratosphere over time, slowly leading to the depletion of a layer of oxygen known as the ozone. As the number of missions increases, the emission scale of harmful gases is also expected to increase. In terms of space propulsion technologies in use and their growth trajectory, the non-chemical segment of the space propulsion market is expected to grow more quickly than the chemical segment. This is due to the demand for velocity increments in modern propulsion systems given that the non-chemical propulsion system’s efficient use of fuel and electrical power enables modern spacecraft to travel farther, faster, and cheaper than any other propulsion technology currently available. To quantify this difference, chemical propulsion systems have demonstrated fuel efficiencies up to 35%, but ion thrusters have demonstrated fuel efficiencies over 90%. The sky truly is the limit when it comes to novel and efficient propulsion systems.

Due to the presence of major player and intense competition among them, North America is the most technologically advanced region with these players looking to secure contracts from end users—such as defense, commercial, and government agencies—and to deploy their satellites and launch vehicles into space by using different types of propulsion systems. This market has been garnering increasing amounts of interest over the past few years due to the significant efforts of commercial space companies and space agencies developing more efficient, less toxic, and enhanced space propulsion systems to contribute to the growth of the space propulsion system market. The development of cost-efficient propulsion technologies may drive growth in this market for years to come.

Most of us immediately think of NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) when considering novel propulsion systems, but the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is also playing a key role in space exploration and technology development. During the summer of 2020, the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover was launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center – it’s the first rover in over 30 years to use domestically produced plutonium created by the U.S. national laboratories. Perseverance is equipped with a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) used to power the rover throughout its journey – to date, the DOE has built almost 50 radioisotope power system units that have powered more than two dozen U.S. space missions. In addition to the work being carried out by the DOE, the Department of Defense (DoD) is working on nuclear propulsion systems through efforts by DARPA and industry to further technology in this space. The White House is also working to power space exploration – its guiding document, A New Era for Deep Space Exploration and Development, was released by the National Space Council in July of 2020.