The Rising Potential of Emerging Space Nations

February 2, 2021

What was once a “space race” between the United States and the Soviet Union has rapidly expanded worldwide for both commercial and government-funded projects. With a current global space economy at an estimated $360 billion as of 2018 and the commercial sector contributing $277 billon of that to various space technology companies, there is a clear socioeconomic as well as technological benefit for countries developing space programs.

What are Emerging Space Nations?

The global space economy is experiencing rapid growth from countries engaging in space activities for the first time, as well as a revival from those who once were active in the industry. New trends have resulted in the emergence of these nations as viable space entities. Government support is critical to the success of these developing space programs, which often lack socioeconomic investment, access to space, and aeronautic-related partnerships with other nations. Commercial companies also are navigating the space sector among these countries and adding to their success by creating innovative, low cost technologies and providing essential resources in support of these economies.

Four such emerging space nations are South Korea, Ethiopia, Australia, and India. Below we explore the strides each is taking in the space arena.

South Korea

Established in 1989, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) has grown in project size, scope and investment over the last 15 years. Currently, KARI is developing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and high-altitude airships in addition to next-generation multipurpose helicopters. The organization has also established the Korean Multi-purpose Satellite (KOMPSAT) program and the Communication, Ocean and Meteorological Satellite (COMS) program, founded in 1995 and 2002 respectively. Originally, these programs were used to develop and launch satellites in partnership with foreign nations and companies. However, one of KARI’s more recent milestones is launching a satellite on its own soil for the first time in 2013.

In 2016, KARI announced a partnership with NASA and created the Korean Lunar Exploration Program, a two-phase program with the goal to launch a lunar orbiter in 2022 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket and a lunar orbiter, lander and rover together from South Korea’s Naro Space Center by 2030.

The country’s emerging space program demonstrates the need for strategic inte$2rnational partnerships and commercial groups to enable growth. South Korea’s funding for the space industry is significantly lower than other nations. However,  the Republic of Korea (ROK) government is committed to space development as a means to foster the expansion of high-tech firms that will create more high-paying jobs and will, in turn, improve the Korean quality of life.


The African continent struggled to establish a lasting space program in its countries. However, with assistance from China, Ethiopia launched its first observatory satellite into space in December 2019 — marking a major milestone for the country and for East Africa.

Like other African nations, Ethiopia’s government instability, supply shortages and civil unrest took priority, resulting in less available resources for aerospace engineering. The foundations for a space program were only finalized in recent years, with the Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute (ESSTI) founded October 14, 2016 to “enable the country to be [a] robust contributor for the development of aerospace science and technology.”

Ethiopia’s use of space technology for its sustainable developments showcases the agricultural benefits of investing in its space program. Researchers in Addis Ababa hope the satellite will allow Ethiopia to observe the northern and southern hemisphere and monitor weather patterns to predict its effects on crops and livestock.


Australia has engaged in the space industry since the 1980s, including oversight of its National Space Program by the Australian Space Office (ASO) prior to the disbandment of the office in 1996. The dissolvement of the ASO diminished the coordinated efforts and government support for the Australian space program.

In 2019, Australia’s government reestablished a space program with renewed vigor and founded the Australian Civil Space Strategy, outlining a plan to triple the size of Australia’s space sector within the next ten years, increasing its current market size of $3.9 billion to $12 billion by 2030. The strategic goals include increasing national capabilities, promoting safe practices, and building a space workforce that supports a thriving aerospace industry. The Strategy is driven by four Strategic Space Pillars -open the door internationally, develop national capability with competitive advantage, ensure responsible regulation, and inspire the lives of all Australians.


The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was founded in 1969, but unlike NASA and the Soviet space programs, which prioritized putting humans in space, India focused on launching satellites. With launch assistance from the Soviet Union, India launched its first satellite called Aryabhata in 1975. In 2008, India launched 11 satellites – nine of them foreign – and became the first nation to launch 10 satellites in one rocket.

India’s key goal for its space program is economic progress rather than the pursuit of record-breaking feats. Vikram Sarabhai, father of the Indian space program, laid out India’s space goals in 1969, stating: “We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society,” as stated on Indian Space Research Organizations’ website.

The Role of Commercial Companies and Services Partners

As these and other emerging space nations evolve, it is increasingly important to define the path forward for sustainable space activities, develop an overall national strategy including international collaboration, and address how to integrate space into other markets. Commercial companies will play a significant role in this process as technology evolves. These commercial providers also will need support from experienced engineering services partners that have been trusted by organizations like NASA, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force to increase mission success while also keeping costs down.

Since 1996, a.i. solutions has been a trusted service partner, providing innovative products and services used to support the successful missions of government, civil, and commercial space agencies.  a.i. solutions has supported the design, development and operations of more than 225 space missions for government and commercial entities and is the creator of FreeFlyer®, the widely-used commercial spacecraft flight dynamics, analysis and operations software.

a.i. solutions’ services and products span space mission engineering, mission systems assurance, launch services, and the FreeFlyer astrodynamics software.

For additional information, visit the a.i. solutions website and @ai_sol on Twitter.

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