The space industry is a diverse and growing industry, which encompasses not only the various manufacturing and service roles within the space economy, but also the emerging field of space tourism too. In this article, you will be able to learn about what the space industry encompasses, its history and the main organisations to be aware of.

Quick menu:

Defining the Space Industry

The space industry is a term that is widely used to describe the various businesses and organisations that are involved in what can be broadly referred to as the ‘space economy‘. This collective term encompasses all goods and services that are related to ideas like space travel, space exploration and space technology.

Until relatively recently, the space industry was primarily associated with manufacturing and, in particular, the creation of launch equipment, satellite equipment, equipment to support astronauts, such as space suits, and equipment that could be used on space missions, such as ‘rover‘ vehicles.

However, today, most definitions of the space industry also include space tourism too. This involves the provision of commercial space travel, where paying customers have the opportunity to travel into space for pleasure.

A Brief History of the Space Industry

Although aspects of the space industry pre-date World War II, most of the progress within the industry has occurred in the years since. Indeed, in those initial post-war years, the industry was largely based around manufacturing for government space agencies. During this time, the major milestones included the Soviet Union putting Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961, and the United States putting Neil Armstrong on the Moon in 1969.

Alongside space exploration, the space industry was also focused on putting satellites into orbit. Then, around the turn of the 21st century, the concept of space tourism or commercial space flight began to emerge.

Video: The History of The Space Industry (1955-1975)

The Cold War saw competition between the two great powers of the world – the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. Both sides would fight to have the best technology in space and who would be able to achieve the ‘firsts.’ This video shows the history of the space industry between 1955 and 1975.


Aircraft and Spacecraft Manufacturers in the Space Industry

Manufacturing is a major part of the space industry and, in fact, the industry would simply not exist without aircraft and spacecraft manufacturers. In some ways, space exploration can be seen as an extension of the aviation industry, and conventional aircraft are sometimes used within space missions, alongside spacecraft.

For more about the companies that are involved in the creation of both aircraft and spacecraft, and for a definition of what aerospace means, read “Aerospace Companies: List of Aircraft and Spacecraft Manufacturers”.

Segments Within the Space Industry

It is generally agreed that there are four main components of the space industry, which are as follows:

Launch Services & Manufacturing

The launch services and the manufacturing segment is centred around the development of equipment that will launch people and objects into space and the provision of related services. This includes the manufacturing of rockets, shuttles, descent vehicles and similar technology, but also equipment used by launch service teams.

Satellite Manufacturing

The satellite manufacturing segment of the space industry is concerned with the design and creation of artificial satellites. This includes any object that is intentionally placed into orbit around the Earth, but some of the most common examples include communications satellites, mapping satellites, weather satellites and space stations.

Ground Equipment Manufacturing

The ground equipment manufacturing segment of the space industry is focused on making various tools that are used by ground support staff during space missions. This may include, for example, control stations, satellite dishes that are designed to receive signals from satellites, portable terminals, and similar equipment.

Commercial Space Tourism

The commercial space tourism sector is the newest segment within the space industry and it is based around the idea of using space travel for recreational purposes. Essentially, space tourism companies design the equipment and provide the services required to send paying customers into space and then get them back to Earth safely.

Video: The Space Industry – The Next Trillion-Dollar Industry

A 27 minute documentary of the space industry. Yes, it is a pretty long video, but it is worth it :)


Space Industry vs. NewSpace

Historically, the space industry was dominated by space agencies, which are typically funded by national governments or even on an international basis. However, in the late 20th century and early 21st century, private companies began to become more involved in the industry, usually with the aim of commercialising space travel.

The term “NewSpace” emerged as a way to describe this more modern element of the industry and it can be defined as the commercial component of the space industry, focused on private spaceflight and profit generation. By contrast, the term ‘space industry’ is used more generally to refer to all aspects of space travel, manufacturing and services.

What is Space Tourism?

Space tourism is one of the fastest-growing areas of the space industry and refers to customers paying money for recreational trips into space. It can also be described as commercial spaceflight and while it may be provided by space agencies, most of the new major proposals are coming from the private sector instead.

Why not read our “Space Tourism: 5 Space Companies That Will Make You An Astronaut” article to explore the topic of space tourism in more depth and learn about some of the proposals that are currently in development?

Companies in the Space Industry That Focus on Space Tourism

Within the space industry, there are a number of major businesses that have presented ideas or visions for the kinds of space tourism services they intend to provide. You can learn more about these below:

Virgin Galactic

Founded in 2004, Virgin Galactic is a subsidiary of the Virgin Group and has played a leading role in the commercial space industry. It is one of the few organisations to have actually sold space flight tickets and the company has also completed numerous test flights, with its astronauts earning commercial astronaut status.

To find out more about Virgin Galactic, its future plans for delivering space tourism, information about pricing, and much more, read our “Virgin Galactic: Information About Virgin Space Flights” article.


SpaceX is often seen as the main space tourism rival to Virgin Galactic. The company was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 and already has extensive experience in the space industry, becoming the first private company to send astronauts into orbit. Elon Musk has also outlined plans to provide regular trips for space tourists in the near future.

If you would like to find out more about SpaceX, its achievements, and its plans for providing commercial space travel, check out our “SpaceX Information: Rockets, Spacecrafts and Spaceflights” article.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin is another example of a business in the space industry proposing space tourism services. The company was founded in 2000 by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and has completed numerous test flights. In the short-to-medium term future, Blue Origin hope to provide customers with access to short-duration return trips to space.

You can learn more about the foundation of Blue Origin, its history, the various test flights the company has carried out and more by reading the “Blue Origin: Information About Blue Origin Space Flights” article.

Boeing Starliner

Boeing has a long history of providing tourism services for customers and the company has branched out into the space industry with the development of the Boeing Starliner. At present, the plans are for this reusable spacecraft capsule to provide regular services for commercial passengers looking to visit space.

In recent times, Boeing has formed a close relationship with NASA and the company has even been chosen by the space agency to provide travel for commercial passengers who wish to visit the International Space Station.

Orion Span

Orion Span is an upstart company in the space industry, based out of California in the United States, which is best known for its Aurora Space Station proposal. This space station will be placed in low Earth orbit, where it will subsequently function as a luxury space hotel, allowing tourists to travel into space and stay overnight.

You can find much more information about Orion Span as a company, and their plans for the luxury hotel on the Aurora Space Station, by reading the “Orion Span: Information About Orion Span Space Hotel” article.

NASA International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a low Earth orbit space station, which operates as a collaborative project between various space agencies, including NASA. Until recently, NASA has opposed the use of the space station for commercial purposes, but recently backed down on that stance, opening up new commercial opportunities.

NASA now has two initial agreements in place with SpaceX and Boeing, allowing those companies to provide paying customers with access to the ISS and to determine crew composition for flights. This will allow both of these companies to deliver comprehensive space tourism services, including overnight stays, in the near future.

Video: How Space Tourism Will Work


Who Was the World’s First Space Tourist?

One of the key events that helped to make tourism part of the space industry came in 2001, when American entrepreneur Dennis Tito travelled into space as part of the Russian Space Agency’s ISS EP-1 mission to the International Space Station. In the process, he officially became the world’s first space tourist.

You can find out much more about Dennis Tito’s journey into space, including background information on how the mission came about, by reading the “Space Tourist: Who Was the First Tourist in Space?” article.

How Can I Actually Book a Space Flight?

While the development of space tourism is helping to usher in a new age for the space industry as a whole, you may be wondering exactly how you can get in on the action. The good news is that some companies are already taking bookings, reservations or applications for waiting lists, as long as you have the money required.

To learn more about the companies that are taking bookings and the process you will need to go through in order to secure your flight into space, read the “Space Flight: How to Book a Ticket into Space” article.

How Can I Make a Space Hotel Reservation?

An extremely exciting development for the space industry, and space tourism, in particular, is the emergence of realistic proposals for fully functional space hotels. These will allow customers to not only travel into space on short-duration flights, but actually, stay in space overnight or for several nights, extending the entire experience.

In addition to putting forward ideas for accommodation in space, some companies are actually already taking bookings. To learn more, read the “Space Hotel: How to Book a Hotel in Space” article.

The space industry is now incredibly diverse because it includes not only the various manufacturing companies that have been involved for decades, but also the newer space tourism companies too. As a result, the industry is now not only about research, exploration and nations, but also about pleasure, experiences and individuals.

More Tips to Grow Your Business is a knowledge platform for the hospitality & travel industry. Professionals use our insights, strategies and actionable tips to get inspired, optimise revenue, innovate processes and improve customer experience. You can find all travel industry tips in the categories Marketing & Distribution, Staffing & Career and Technology & Software.

Submit an Article