The space economy entails entity transactions relating to activities conducted in outer space. This emerging economy consists of various activities, including satellite manufacturing and application, commercial human spaceflight, and celestial mining operations (Bryce, 2017). Investment banks valued the space economy at $350 billion in 2018, with growth projections including at least $1 trillion around 2040 and $2.7 trillion by 2047 (Foust, 2018a; Sheetz, 2017; projections vary because of the inherent uncertainty in creating long-term growth forecasts that involve many variables). The text introduces the background context for the modern space economy. This section details the scope and depth of projected space activities, including ambitious plans for humanity to achieve a sustained presence on the moon during the 2020s and Mars in the 2030s. This background gives the reader insight into the substance of entity transactions involving activities in outer space. Then, the discussion details space accounting challenges, focusing on challenges related to unique space economic characteristics. Research opportunities are considered from traditional (financial accounting, management accounting, taxation, audit, and accounting information systems) and contemporary (sustainability accounting) accounting areas. This analysis reveals the potential for a robust and interdisciplinary field in the accounting domain relevant to both practitioner and academic spheres. The article concludes with a summary analysis of the future exploration of accounting for the developing space economy.
This article suggests two general categories of space accounting challenges. First, accounting challenges relating to space transactions may be familiar to accounting issues found in already established industries, and the space industry provides a different context to address these issues. These challenges include activity-based costing considerations in a space manufacturing setting involving complex supply chains and vertically-structured organizations. Also, some challenges may be analogous to those observed in other emerging contexts, such as exploring trust and assurance constructs in an eCommerce setting (Bahmanziari et al., 2009). While these common accounting challenges may be restricted to specific industries, they are not unique to any industry or circumstance. Thus researchers addressing these challenges in a new space industry setting will benefit from frameworks and applications developed and learned in contexts before the space industry’s emergence.
The second category of space accounting challenges involves those challenges unique to a space economy. If accounting challenges involving space transactions are familiar to nonspace settings, one may reasonably question the value of an exposition on accounting for the space economy. However, unique accounting challenges exist in the space economy, and the literature would particularly benefit from analyzing and discussing these distinct challenges. Wooten and Tang (2018) identify four unique challenges for the space industry to overcome for successful operations: distance, gravity, inhospitable environments, and information.
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- Bryce Space and Technology. (2017). Global Space Industry Dynamics. Available at: https://brycetech.com/downloads/Global_Space_Industry_Dynamics_2017.pdf
- Foust, J. (2018a). A Trillion-Dollar Space Industry Will Require New Markets. Space News, available at: https://spacenews.com/a-trillion-dollar-space-industry-will-require-new-markets/
- Sheetz, M. (2017). The Space Industry Will be Worth Nearly $3 Trillion in 30 Years, Bank of America predicts. CNBC, available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/31/the-space-industry-will-beworth-nearly-3-trillion-in-30-years-bank-of-america-predicts.html
- Wooten, J.O. and Tang, C.S. (2018). Operations in Space: Exploring a New Industry. Decision Sciences, 49(6), 999-1023.