One giant leap for capitalistkind: Private enterprise in outer space


Publication date


Series/Report no

Palgrave Communications;Published 29 January 2019


Palgrave Macmillan

Document type


Outer space is becoming a space for capitalism. We are entering a new era of the commercialization of space, geared towards generating profits from satellite launches, space tourism, asteroid mining, and related ventures. This era, driven by private corporations such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origins, has been labeled by industry insiders as ‘NewSpace'—in contrast to ‘Old Space', a Cold War-era mode of space relations when (allegedly) slow-moving, sluggish states dominated outer space. NewSpace marks the arrival of capitalism in space. While challenging the libertarian rhetoric of its proponents—space enterprises remain enmeshed in the state, relying on funding, physical infrastructure, technology transfers, regulatory frameworks, and symbolic support—NewSpace nevertheless heralds a novel form of human activity in space. Despite its humanistic, universalizing pretensions, however, NewSpace does not benefit humankind as such but rather a specific set of wealthy entrepreneurs, many of them originating in Silicon Valley, who strategically deploy humanist tropes to engender enthusiasm for their activities. We describe this complex as ‘capitalistkind'. Moreover, the arrival of capitalism in space is fueled by the expansionary logic of capital accumulation. Outer space serves as a spatial fix, allowing capital to transcend its inherent terrestrial limitations. In this way, the ultimate spatial fix is perhaps (outer) space itself.




Permanent URL (for citation purposes)