by Xiao-Shan Yap and Bernhard Truffer
Sustainability transitions research has increasingly adopted global perspectives on how to deal with sustainability challenges. However, “global” has so far been limited to Earth’s surface and atmosphere. We argue that transitions research should include developments that relate to the orbit and outer space (hereinafter also Space). The Space sector has grown substantially over the last decade in terms of the number of rocket launches, the diversity of actors involved or new essential services that depend on Space-based infrastructures. This entails fundamentally new opportunities to manifold industrial sectors, and enables developing countries to potentially leapfrog polluting industrial development pathways. At the same time, the expansion of the Space sector creates manifold sustainability pressures like atmospheric pollution, high energy consumption, or Space debris in the orbit. This led to recent surges in arguably “green” innovations such as reusable rockets, but also the development of new governance arrangements protecting outer space as a finite resource for humankind. This research note sketches major recent developments in the Space sector and points to promising avenues of research for innovation and transition studies, not only in terms of a new empirical application field but also as an inspiration for new theoretical insights and innovation policies.
Cite as: Yap X.-S. and Truffer B. (2021) Opportunities and threats of the rapidly developing Space sector on sustainability transitions: Towards a research agenda. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(02), GEIST Working Paper series.