State of Space 2022 Offers Critical Lessons for Business and Government

Thomas Zelibor, Space Foundation CEO, Explains the Importance of:

  • Defining space as a critical infrastructure
  • Prioritizing workforce and education initiatives
  • Establishing norms of behavior

Space Foundation: State of Space 2022 (Graphic: Business Wire)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.--()--In an annual State of Space 2022 commentary and video, Thomas Zelibor, CEO of Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983 for the global space ecosystem, speaks to business and government leaders about the transformation of the space industry, how space is already a critical infrastructure driving innovation for life here on Earth, and why it is so important that we prioritize workforce and education initiatives, while establishing norms of behavior to work together peacefully in space for the future of mankind.

State of Space: Then and Now

When we started the State of Space program in 2019, it was a different environment from what we are experiencing today. In fact, looking back, it would be safe to say that we were at the dawn of a new era for the global space community.

Project Artemis and our efforts to return to the Moon were in their infancy; the Hubble Space Telescope continued to reveal mysteries in our surrounding universe; commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station were occurring with regularity; and commercial space industry operations were starting to garner more interest by media, investors and the public, globally.

Three years later, the first space launch system (SLS) is stacked on the pad to launch this year for our first return to the Moon in generations; the James Webb Space Telescope is now unfolding at L2 to reveal more mysteries about our universe; commercial companies are now carrying astronauts and private citizens into space; and a $447 billion global space economy continues to grow in size, investment and employment. All the while, the world dealt with an unprecedented global pandemic that hampered economic growth and expansion.

State of Space 2022: The Era of Access and Opportunity

With 90 countries now operating in space, dozens of companies with orbital access capabilities, and growing global demands for talent to keep all these efforts going, it is easy to understand why Space Foundation calls this “the era of access and opportunity.”

Want further proof? Look at any news site, newspaper, or media outlet and you’ll find more expansive coverage of space today than you did during the Apollo era — with far more diverse players than singular superpowers competing for supremacy.

Look at the continued and uninterrupted patterns of growth in government spending and private investment that are becoming more expansive than at any other time in our history.

Look at the demands by nation states as well as citizens for increasing access, understanding and imagery that space provides to monitor the safety, health and well-being of our planet as well as the natural disaster and national security threats that are ever present.

These are the facts of a vibrant and diverse ecosystem, and if done right, they will allow everyone to find their place in this dynamic environment.

State of Space 2022: What Would Life Be Like Without Space?

While the public will always envision rockets and astronauts when they think of space, the truth is that space is a critical infrastructure driving innovation for life here on Earth. In fact, there are more space activities happening here on Earth than in orbit around our planet.

  • Without space, we could not begin to understand the effects or impacts of climate change — a challenge no country or continent is immune from.
  • Without space, commerce that creates jobs, builds economies, and invests in technologies that shape daily life would not be possible.
  • Without space, security as well as preparations for communities from weather events and natural hazards or military and cyber threats would not be possible.
  • Without space, no critical infrastructure — ANYWHERE — could operate or fulfill its services or responsibilities to citizens.

But with Space, all these things — and much more — are possible. For as different as all of us are, we are all bound by common hopes and aspirations for a future where peace and prosperity are the values that bring us all together.

Today’s era of access and opportunity is not bound by traditional approaches of solitary nations or enterprises going it alone to fulfill bold missions. But rather, we are establishing new relationships with greater possibilities for success as partners and investors. That is not just among countries, but also companies, communities and cultures.

Unfortunately, there are some leaders that see what we do by investing precious resources and energies in space activities as taking away from addressing the challenges that every country and community face here on Earth.

At Space Foundation, we would argue that the investment of resources and energies in these pursuits are the catalysts that will drive and create solutions we all want and need for our planet, our countries and our communities.

It should also not be a question of one path versus another. Rather, it is a question of how we work together to create understanding, build relationships, and address challenges that are far more common to one another than we may have previously realized.

State of Space 2022: A Global Showcase of Diversity of Thought, Approaches and Leadership

Much like we do at every Space Symposium, Space Foundation is honored to host an array of leaders from the international, national security, investment, insurance and private sectors to let you hear firsthand from them what is happening in their immediate universe.

The views they present are their own, but they speak to multiple perspectives that we need to be aware of as the global space ecosystem expands.

For Space Foundation, we see three key facets that deserve our utmost attention. They include:

  • Defining space as a critical infrastructure
  • Prioritizing workforce and education initiatives
  • Establishing norms of behavior

Defining Space as a Critical Infrastructure

There is not a continent, country, company or community that is untouched by what we do with space — either in orbit or back here on Earth. That dependence and the interdependence of every other critical infrastructure is linked to space. A day without space access and space-to-Earth technologies would be catastrophic to the world’s security, economies and ways of life.

Despite these operational realities, space is not officially classified as a critical infrastructure. Whether the reasons are bureaucratic or political, we are well past the time for governments here and around the world to embrace the facts and classify space for what it is — a critical infrastructure where dependence grows greater every day. Global economies like the space economy, already valued at more than $447 billion and forecast to surpass a trillion-plus before the end of the decade, are not possible without becoming an infrastructure themselves. That has been proven time and again.

Space Force is in operation, a dedicated Space ISAC is in place, and more governments, countries and companies with direct space operations requires the official declaration to be made — space is the critical infrastructure that will redefine our lives in the 21st century. Let’s call it and classify it as such.

Prioritizing Workforce and Education Initiatives

While we may seek to classify specific assets and networks as infrastructures, it would be shortsighted to ignore the driving forces and energies that make infrastructures operate. It all starts with people. Without the necessary talent and the diversity of talent, no one is going anywhere in space, with space, or bringing space innovations to benefit life on Earth.

Engaging new workers, at all levels, in multiple skills and trades, will be the most challenging and competitive environment the global space community will encounter for the foreseeable future.

The space community has never been short in its ability to inspire generations of all ages by the work that it does. This year promises to be another with significant moments to come, but growing global demands for new networks, architectures, launch and recovery capabilities, environmental monitoring, and more are all at risk with a limited pipeline of talent to make those aspirations a reality.

Solutions to these challenges rest as much in boardrooms and at kitchen tables as they do in classrooms. Teachers cannot do this alone. It requires a cultural shift for lifelong learning that crosses boundaries of old if we are going to empower students, engage aspiring entrepreneurs, and foster cross-generational innovators.

Every country, company and community wants to be the home port of this talent. For those not willing to make the effort to develop and retain this talent and empower it to reach its fullest potential, the talent will go elsewhere. We live in a mobile world, and the pandemic has only accelerated talent transformation. The challenge before the space community is, “What are we going to do to assure the missions we desire are possible?”

There are already innovative shifts in curricula development, professional training, apprenticeships and more. But more shifts are necessary, especially shifts that ensure that any person, regardless of where they come from or whomever they may be, can find their place with space. There is space for everyone.

Establishing Norms of Behavior

In the sixty-plus years of the world’s space adventure, we’ve taken several momentous steps that have changed history. From Alexei Leonov’s first step into the vacuum of space to Neil Armstrong’s first boot print on the Moon, we’ve built on those transformative individual achievements.

For as expansive as space may be, all of us are operating in a closer and more condensed neighborhood than ever before. A look at a map of low-Earth orbit’s satellites, spacecraft and other in-orbit materials illustrates the challenge we are seeing unfold before us.

In the past year, space stations operated by the ISS partners, as well as the Chinese, have had to make orbital adjustments to safeguard their crews and structures from harm. Additionally, here on Earth, deorbiting debris from launch vehicles has posed risks to life.

For as meticulous as space faring peoples may be in putting a payload and its mission into orbit, we need to be just as meticulous in how and where we operate those payloads and missions to safeguard other operations and people that are in-orbit as well as on Earth.

Carelessness has consequences.

Comprehensive mission stewardship and establishing norms of behavior have always been important but they become even more important when physical and operational competition in the orbiting neighborhood begins to accelerate.

The forecasted launch manifest for 2022 tells us we are in for another record-breaking year. That is positive for a host of reasons, but smart, sustainable and responsible growth and conduct must be part of the equation.

While governments have a role to play here, it is industry that can be the solution drivers for some of these most challenging issues. This is why the private sector needs to have a greater voice in establishing the norms of behavior going forward.

State of Space 2022: History Worth Making

Like a lot of people in the space community, I am genuinely excited by what is happening. We have more countries, companies and missions than ever before. That “more” factor is the promise of 2022. We will have more of everything, but as a student of history, there is a lot to learn from eras of prosperity, as access and opportunity expand.

We simply have more to do.

While much can be drawn from history and lessons learned from the recent decades of space exploration, it is the next series of chapters that we are writing that will define our future and what others say about us in the future.

What do you want that history to say about us? Think about that for a moment. While history can certainly shape us, it does not have to define us either. That decision is up to us as individuals as well as prospective partners, but it remains our decision.

My challenge to you as prospective history-makers is to pursue our collective goals as teams, rather than as individuals. The rewards we generate will make us all broader and better, and like the first steps of Leonov and Armstrong, they will stand the test of time.

That is foundation building in its greatest form, and it will make all the difference in the world — today, tomorrow and for years to come.

At Space Foundation, we look forward to working with you in those pursuits, because the innovations we advocate for together will be the benefits the world needs here on Earth and beyond.

That … is history worth making.

See the complete State of Space 2022 keynote by Tom Zelibor at

To replay the State of Space 2022 event, please register for access at

About Tom Zelibor

Tom Zelibor, Rear Admiral, USN (ret.), is the CEO for Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983 for the global space ecosystem. Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Zelibor manages a national staff with a global impact across the business, government, education and local communities. Before joining Space Foundation in April 2017, Zelibor served as chairman and chief executive officer for Lightwave Logic Inc., among other executive roles in commercial enterprises. Prior to his leadership tenure in the private sector, Zelibor had a distinguished 30-year career in the United States Navy.

About Space Foundation

Space Foundation is a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983, offering a gateway to information, education and collaboration for space exploration and space-to-Earth industries that define the global space ecosystem. Driven by a partnership model, Space Foundation operates three divisions that unite the entire spectrum of stakeholders — business, government, education and local communities — through support from corporate membership, sponsorship, fundraising and grants. Symposium 365 is the premier source for media and events, including Space Symposium and The Space Report; Center for Innovation and Education is a lifelong learning provider; and Global Alliance facilitates collaboration around the world. Visit Space Foundation at, and follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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Tags: Space Foundation, State of Space, Thomas Zelibor, space industry event, space technology, space innovation, space ecosystem, space exploration, space-to-Earth industries


Rich Cooper
Vice President, Strategic Communications & Outreach
Space Foundation
(202) 596-0714

Dottie O’Rourke
TECHMarket Communications
(650) 344-1260

Release Summary

Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor speaks to business and government leaders about the transformation of the space industry.


Rich Cooper
Vice President, Strategic Communications & Outreach
Space Foundation
(202) 596-0714

Dottie O’Rourke
TECHMarket Communications
(650) 344-1260