The Edge

Morgan Stanley sees 'a pattern forming' of the space industry developing like self-driving cars

Key Points
  • Morgan Stanley is telling its clients to pay attention to a space market that could grow very quickly, as the firm said it expects "significant development" from related ventures.
  • "We see a similar pattern" as the autonomous vehicle market "forming today with space," Morgan Stanley wrote in a note Friday.
  • Four key issues are driving this, the firm says: Reusable rockets, wireless data demand, heavy capital backing and a need to build space-based military capabilities.
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy booster rockets land at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on February 6, 2018.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

The space industry is valued at over $350 billion but Morgan Stanley is telling its clients to pay attention to a market that could grow very quickly, as the firm said it expects "significant development" from space ventures. 

"Some investors struggle to understand the investment significance of space," Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note Friday. The firm noted that, since it predicted last October the space industry will triple in size in the coming years, investors showed "a limited degree of interest" in the more than 90 space companies Morgan Stanley is tracking. 

"This relative lack of interest reminded us of our early discussions on autonomous vehicles in 2013 and 2014," Morgan Stanley said. "We see a similar pattern forming today with space."

Almost every major automaker in the world – as well as tech giants and ride hailing companies – is now spending billions of dollars to develop vehicles which can drive without a human behind the wheel. But a decade ago, only a handful of early investors were getting behind the autonomous driving movement.

As the cost of access to space plummets, Morgan Stanley anticipates the industry to follow in the steps of self-driving cars. Autonomous technology moved "from complete obscurity and skepticism to a dominant investor theme," the firm said in its October report.

Morgan Stanley, after speaking to former and current U.S. military and intelligence officials, said "space is an area where we will see significant development." Four key issues are driving this development, according to the firm: Reusable rocket technology, an increase in wireless data demand, heavy backing from angel investors and venture capital and a need to build space-based military capabilities.

Companies providing and benefiting from internet bandwidth will see most of the upcoming value from the space industry, Morgan Stanley said in its October note. 

The firm published a diversified list of stocks as Morgan Stanley's "Space 20," or the companies best poised to benefit from the exponential growth the firm expects. Technology and legacy aerospace companies like Google-parent Alphabet and Boeing feature prominently, along with perceived dark horses such as GoDaddy and Analog Devices.

Internet bandwidth from satellites is what Morgan Stanley has called a "second order impact" — a way for internet companies to benefit from the increasing efficiency and decreasing cost of satellites. SpaceX, one of several companies working on advance satellite internet technologies, is attempting to build the largest satellite network ever, with a constellation of 4,425 satellites to bring broadband speeds comparable to fiber optic networks.