Space, the final (construction) frontier

Freeman

The commercial real estate construction landscape today is an uncertain one. The post-pandemic return to in-person work has slowed, leaving cities with vast, unoccupied office spaces. The retail sector, meanwhile, continues to grapple with a prolonged lack of new construction and even industrial construction — a corner of the industry that was red-hot for several years — is experiencing a reported slowdown as developers contend with high interest rates and dwindling warehouse leasing activity. Though some reports predict a rebound for those willing to take the long view of commercial real estate, the industry should in the meantime look seriously to a new horizon for the next construction boom: space.

Over the last decade, funding for the space economy has grown tremendously, with investors eyeing massive future payouts from projects related to the final frontier. Morgan Stanley has estimated that the global space industry could generate, “revenue of more than $1 trillion or more in 2040, up from $350 billion.” However, for the commercialization of space to well and truly take flight, the industry will need support from Earth in the form of more — and more modern — infrastructure. Off-planet industry expertise will also be needed to take the next step in engineering and construction in space.

While the space economy’s construction landscape already has seasoned incumbents such as Momentus Space, Astrotech Space Operations and Texas Sterling-Banicki, its rapid expansion and growing demand also offers a prime opportunity for new entrants. As the sector grows and evolves, there’s an opening for newcomers to learn and make an impact, and for industry leaders to expand their footprint. Here are three compelling reasons for the construction industry to focus on space to infinity, and beyond.

Empowering innovation and future-proofing the construction industry

Throughout history, the construction industry has exhibited remarkable adaptability and resilience, evolving alongside technological advancements to ensure its continued relevance. The sector has also been instrumental in fostering innovation by building crucial infrastructure for emerging industries, one such example being cloud computing. Over the years, construction companies have become experts in designing, building and equipping cloud computing centers to be cost effective, energy efficient and capable of meeting growing data demands, empowering cloud computing companies to build new products and offer customers new services.

To add to this legacy of enabling innovation, the construction industry should set its terrestrial sights on a key driver of the space economy — spaceports. These highly-complex projects are made up of components including control centers, rocket launch pads, communication facilities and more. The current space economy demand is largely for improvements and upgrades to existing spaceports (a projected budget for which is $1.3 billion), however with planned increases in satellite launches and space exploration missions, it would not be surprising to see a need for new spaceport construction in the coming years. 

Given the scale, complexity and impact of spaceports, the construction industry stands at a crossroads: more widely embracing these monumental projects not only ensures its continued relevance but also positions it at the forefront of a new era of innovation, opening doors to untapped opportunities in space infrastructure development.

Driving regional economic revival and renaissances

As the space industry continues growing on a global scale, the construction sector stands to help revive and grow regional economies. Last year, the nonprofit Space Foundation found that the global space economy reached $546 billion, and further projected that it could rocket another 41 percent in five years. This expansion would likely include a number of potential space industry construction projects, from the previously mentioned upgrades to America’s spaceport infrastructure, to the construction of specialized facilities for engine manufacturing, to the development of state-of-the-art launchpad complexes designed to accommodate the next generation of space vehicles. 

Each and every contracting project that may come to fruition will have a marked impact on its surrounding terrestrial economies. The most obvious impact would be job creation, as the construction and renovation of space-related facilities and infrastructure would necessitate a diverse array of skilled labor, ranging from engineers and architects to specialized technicians and craftsmen. 

These employment opportunities would not only result in resurgent local economies but would also foster cultures of innovation as well as local expertise transfer — sharing skills and know-how to advance a particular field — positioning specific regions at the forefront of technological advancements. In essence, the construction sector’s alignment with the space industry would continue catalyzing a virtuous cycle of innovation, investment and prosperity, charting a course toward a future where the boundaries of possibility are continually redefined.

Pioneering off-world construction: a legacy-defining opportunity

As the space industry blossoms and infrastructure development on Earth accelerates, the construction sector faces another watershed moment — a chance to become trailblazers in the realm of off-world construction. Embracing this far-out opportunity isn’t merely about meeting the demands of an expanding space economy; it’s about etching a legacy. 

By spearheading projects beyond our planet’s confines, such as building lunar bases, Martian habitats and expansive space stations like the Gateway, construction entities have the unparalleled opportunity to cement their status as industry frontrunners. Pioneering methodologies and technologies that will define the future of extraterrestrial infrastructure, this venture goes beyond mere construction — it’s about sculpting the future narrative of human exploration and habitation beyond Earth. For those bold enough to seize this opportunity, the stars are no longer the limit — they’re the beginning of an unparalleled legacy. 

Just as the construction industry has historically pushed boundaries and built the infrastructure that supported advancements and innovation on Earth, now, it stands on the precipice of doing the same for humanity’s ventures beyond our planet.

Scott Cannon is the CEO of BigRentz, a one-stop digital solution providing access to the nation’s largest construction equipment rental network, outsourced procurement services, project management tools and more. 

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