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We are in the era of 'Space 4.0' and it is a dynamic and rapidly evolving innovation landscape. Increasing numbers of diverse actors and disruptive technologies are leading to new services and applications. The changes are happening in parallel to the arrival of new political and social issues, and problems that require novel legal and regulatory reform. This renaissance of the space sector follows decades that were characterised by government control (ESA, 2019; Wharton, 2019a; IndustryWired, 2020; Sommariva, 2020). Change was triggered following the Columbia space shuttle accident in 2003, when NASA changed its policies to foster public-private partnerships (Aloia, 2019). Under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Programme launched in 2006, private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Planet were able to enter the ‘space race’, resulting in a vibrant evolution. Others followed suit and outer space is now ‘home’ to over 80 countries and a growing number of organisations that have at least one satellite orbiting the Earth (OECD, 2019; N2YO, 2021). The space sector has been revolutionised by the digital transformation. Cheaper, smaller and lighter satellites (smallsats) have resulted in more frequent launches (Hoffman, 2018), and they are more accessible to new actors, (start-ups, students). Coupled with advancements in sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, machine learning, predictive algorithms and natural language processing techniques, these innovations all help space industry organisations evolve in areas such as broadband internet access, manufacturing, imaging, telemetry and spectrum usage. (Access Partnership, 2019).

Space becomes a new area of expansion

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The new Space Race