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Advances in technology have significantly reduced the cost of accessing space and increased the efficiency and capabilities of space systems. AI has become a driving force of space exploration in recent years. There is also significant potential for opportunity in this area for investors, argues Tomasz Godziek, head of Thematic Equities at J. Safra Sarasin.

The development of reusable rockets, miniaturisation of satellites, advances in propulsion systems and the rise of private space companies have made space more accessible and cost-effective. At $1,500, for example, the cost of putting 1 kg into low-Earth orbit is 99% lower than in 1965, and it will become 30 times cheaper still with Starship, SpaceX3’s super-heavy space vehicle.

This opens up new opportunities for commercial space ventures and entrepreneurial activities. But while access to space seems easier and cheaper than ever, it still presents some extremely difficult challenges. Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are timely in addressing complex problems.

Satellite operations revolutionised by AI

AI is transforming satellite operations, making them more efficient, cost-effective and reliable. Machine learning algorithms can optimise satellite performance, predict anomalies and automate routine tasks.

While there are currently 7,500 active satellites in orbit, there are plans to send as many as 65,000 new communication satellites and 3,000 non-communication satellites (for applications such as Earth observation) into space.

The key role of AI

Observations from space provide crucial data on Earth’s climate, weather patterns, natural resources and environmental changes. Satellites with various instruments help monitor deforestation, sea level rise, air pollution and other environmental factors.

This data is vital for understanding and mitigating the effects of climate change, managing natural resources and making informed decisions related to disaster management and urban planning. However, the huge amount of data generated poses a major challenge. AI plays a crucial role in mining these huge datasets, gaining meaningful insights and accelerating scientific discoveries in this field.

Space mining as a driver of the green transition

Given the increasing scarcity of some of Earth’s resources that have been depleted by human overexploitation, the potential for resource use in space is becoming an attractive idea. Mining asteroids promises to provide access to vast quantities of rare metals and minerals in high demand on Earth.

This year, NASA has planned a mission to explore a huge metallic asteroid that could contain a core of iron, nickel and gold worth more than the global economy. Mining asteroids would help reduce the environmental impact of mining on Earth and reduce the huge amount of carbon dioxide emissions.

Sustainability in space

The rapid development of the space market also raises several questions. In the area of sustainability in space, for example, the increasing number of satellites in orbit creates the problem of space debris. Currently, there are an estimated 130 million pieces of space debris, including 36,500 objects larger than 10 cm, such as old satellites, used rocket bodies and even tools dropped into orbit by astronauts.

Here too, AI algorithms offer solutions, as they are used to track and predict the movements of space debris so that satellite operators and space agencies can take proactive measures to avoid collisions.

As we move further into the cosmos, AI will continue to be a driving force shaping the future of space exploration and offer significant potential for investment returns.


Author LFI

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