New Space vs. Old Space

An Overview of Old Space and New Space

A common question people ask is what is the difference between Old Space and New Space, and why does it matter. Instead of giving a huge essay on the subject, We’ve condensed this down to about as short a version as possible while still giving you all the information you need to understand everything else you will read on this site and elsewhere. If you would like to read some books that go more in-depth, feel free to shoot us a message, and we’ll send the titles to you.

Old Space. What is it? Old Space is best understood as the space activities which began in the First Space Age (What there’s more than one space-age? Yes. We’ll get to it.) and the players who occupied the industry then and now. For Example, see some key points below.

Old Space Players:

  • Governmental Space Agencies (Russia, United States, China, India, etc.)

  • Boeing, Lockheed, and their United Launch Alliance 

Old Space Activities:

  • Shuttle Launches

  • International Space Stations 

  • Governmental Satellite Programs & National Security 

  • Communication Satellites 

  • Various long-range space probes either to specific planets or to measure temperatures, rays, and other metrics in space. 

Key Treaties:

  • Outer Space Treaty of 1967

  • The Moon Treaty of 1979

To put it simply, Old Space was dominated by governments and large companies with huge government contracts. The main points were discovery, exploration, science, and security. During this time, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was signed to prohibit the weaponization of space via satellites or other celestial bodies like the moon and restrict any country laying claim to any planets or the moon. There was also The Moon Treaty which was drafted a few years later to further clarify the economic activities in space, governmental and private. Unfortunately for the drafters, The Moon Treaty never garnered any real support and was never picked up or ratified by any other major space powers rendering it powerless. 

After the Outer Space Treaty and powerless Moon Treaty were drafted in the late 1960s, there was very little movement on the legal or regulatory fronts regarding space, planets, asteroids, or any other economic activities in space. For numerous reasons that go beyond the scope of this page, the state of space stayed relatively stagnant until the early 2000's when the Second Space Aged dawned on us. This is also the start of New Space. New participants entered the space economy from the private sector in the United States, who sought to disrupt the stagnant space industry. These new companies approached space from an entirely different angle and broadened the perspective governments and investors could have of space. 

Old Space players were large, closed, bureaucratic, and slow systems that only seemed to excel at exceeding budgets from a business perspective. On the other hand, New Space companies were focused on disrupting the old way of doing things and focused on lowering the barriers to participating in the space industry by focusing on projects that would lower costs dramatically, increase access to space for companies and individuals, fuel innovation, and create a vibrant space economy that 20 years ago was not imaginable. Now, it's important to note that the Old Space players are still around and have not been replaced by the New Space companies, so they are still very relevant to the space industry and economy. 

So here some quick facts about the new space.

New Space Players:

  • Virgin Galactic 

  • SpaceX

  • Blue Origin 

  • Planetary Resources 

  • Deep Space Industries 

  • XCOR Aerospace 

  • OneWeb

  • Armadillo Aerospace 

  • Bigelow Aerospace 

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation 

  • Masten Space Systems

  • Orbital Sciences 

New Space Activities:

  • Asteroid Mining 

  • Internet Satellites 

  • Colonizing Mars

  • Reusable Rockets

  • High-End Private Imaging Satellites 

  • Cube Satellites 

  • Nano Satellites 

  • Commercial Space Stations 

  • Space Manufacturing 

  • Zero-G Innovations

  • Space Tourism 

Key New Regulations, Laws, and Treaties:

  • United States Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 (CSLCA)

  • Commercial Space Program Act of 2010

  • The Luxembourg Space Resources Initiative of 2017

  • United Kingdom Commercial Space Incentive Program 2017 (Drafted)

What is important to understand about the New Space industry and the economy is that it will be shaped more by the private companies and their innovations than the governments who shaped the landscape of the Old Space Economy. Governments like the United States and Luxembourg are currently pushing to be at the forefront of friendly regulations to encourage these companies to grow their business from their respective jurisdictions. However, the United States and Luxembourg will likely not be the last countries to attempt to stake out their piece of space regulatory pie. After all, the countries that successfully attract the most promising space-focused companies will reap enormous tax windfalls on the estimated $2-3 trillion dollar space economy in the coming years. That's $2-3 trillion dollars up for grabs to be taxed. 

In other sections on this site, we will go into more depth on the treaties governing space and, most importantly, the property rights of space. You'll also be able to get a better and more detailed understanding of the various technologies that are coming online in space that will change the world as we know it in the coming decades, if not sooner.

Why should we go to space? Is it just for astronauts and billionaires?

Learn about the similarities and differences between Old Space and New Space. 

Learn about the space economy and its key drivers. 

How can you own things in space? Learn about it here.

Learn about the laws governing exploration and commerce in space.