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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A space economy conjures visions of thousands of people living and working in orbit and beyond, but the jobs that will keep the space industry afloat in the coming years will be located on Earth.

The big picture: The space industry could be worth $805 billion by 2030, according to estimates from UBS.

  • UBS predicts that space tourism will account for about a $3 billion slice of the market by then.
  • But the bulk of the economy will depend on Earth-bound workers — satellite operators, data analysts, software engineers and other technicians who will be in high demand as the space industry transitions from a government-dominated realm to an essential, commercial enterprise.

What's happening: Multiple companies are aiming to launch constellations of thousands of satellites to orbit in the coming years and will likely need people on the ground to operate them.

  • A new online course offered by Arizona State University is designed to teach satellite operators to work with these companies and the government.
  • Private companies and the government have brought Qwaltec in to train their satellite operators in the past, but with the expected boom in the market, the company decided to develop a standardized course, Qwaltec CEO Shawn Linam told Axios.
  • The growth expected in the satellite industry could spur manufacturing as well, as thousands of relatively small, inexpensive satellites will be needed for these mega-constellations.

Where it stands: SpaceX has dozens of job openings ranging from rocket engineering to spacesuit sewer in its facilities across the country.

  • Blue Origin along with other, smaller and less high-profile hardware and analysis companies are also looking to hire talent as demand for satellites and their data increases.

But, but, but: The space industry's transition to the future space economy could be overshadowed by an aging workforce.

  • The Space Foundation estimated the U.S. awarded 6% of STEM degrees globally in 2016, while China awarded eight times that.
  • Satellite companies used to pull their talent from the military or broadcast companies, but those pipelines are drying up today, Robert Bell, executive director of Space & Satellite Professionals International, told Axios.
  • Space companies and government agencies are also facing more competition from tech giants, Bell added.
"We've almost flipped from where it was, where you wanted people to retire because you wanted to open up the slots — now, we've got the slots open, but we can't find enough people to fill them."
— Mary Lynne Dittmar, CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Go deeper: Space companies are trying to tap into new markets with big data

Go deeper

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The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

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The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.