Space Sustainability: Preserving the Usability of Outer Space
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Space Sustainability: Preserving the Usability of Outer Space

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The following content is sponsored by Secure World Foundation.

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Space Sustainability: Preserving the Usability of Outer Space

Humanity is yet to explore the limits of our universe, but outer space is already becoming an increasingly important resource for the Earth.

The Earth’s orbits support various satellite applications that enable the technologies we use on a daily basis. While space might seem infinite, the orbits in which satellites travel constitute a limited natural resource with a finite amount of physical space. These orbits are becoming more and more crowded with satellites and space junk—and managing this resource sustainably is critical to the future of activities in space.

The above infographic from our sponsor Secure World Foundation highlights the challenges facing space sustainability and the potential solutions that can help manage this resource for the future.

The Need to Preserve Outer Space

Thousands of satellites orbit the Earth at different altitudes, providing social, scientific, and economic benefits to people across the globe. While some satellites are helping advance science and exploration in space, others are monitoring the Earth’s environment and aiding disaster management on the ground.

However, space is a global resource, where the presence and actions of one actor can affect all the others in orbit. In 1990, there were less than 500 active satellites orbiting the Earth. Today, there are more than 4,000 active satellites in space. Furthermore, with companies like SpaceX launching expansive satellite networks, the majority of active satellites today are for commercial purposes, with a smaller portion serving government, military, civil, and academic needs.

The rapid increase in the number of satellites, driven by the commercial sector, poses challenges to the future of space activity and sustainability.

Three Challenges to Space Sustainability

Space sustainability is ensuring that all humanity can continue to use outer space for peaceful purposes and socioeconomic benefits now and in the long term. This will require international cooperation, discussion, and agreements designed to ensure that outer space is safe, secure, and peaceful.

There are several challenges facing space sustainability, but three important issues stand out.

Challenge #1:
Space Junk

As the term suggests, space junk or orbital debris refers to defunct satellites, old rocket bodies, and fragmented objects in space that no longer serve a useful purpose.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the mass of all debris objects in space summed up to 8,800 tonnes as of December 2020. This includes:

  • 34,000 objects greater than 10cm in size
  • 900,000 objects between 1cm and 10cm
  • 128 million objects between 1mm and 1cm

Although these objects seem small in size, they can travel at speeds up to 29,000 km/h or roughly 8 km/s. As a result, even collisions with small pieces of debris can have dangerous consequences for those in space.

The increasing amount of space junk brings up another issue—the physical congestion in Earth’s orbits.

Challenge #2:
Orbital Crowding

The Earth’s orbits have a limited amount of physical space. Today, these orbits host thousands of satellites of different sizes, in addition to the debris and objects that are floating around.

Physical crowding of orbits with satellites and debris can lead to a chain reaction known as the Kessler syndrome. This refers to a scenario where the density of objects in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects can create a cascading effect where each collision generates debris that increases the probability of further collisions.

Moreover, satellite constellations—large networks of satellites—are becoming more common. Here are some examples of planned satellite constellations as of August 10, 2021:

CompanyConstellation NameNumber of Satellites
SpaceXStarlink41,493
China SatNetGuo Wang12,992
OneWebN/A6,372
Lynk GlobalN/A5,000
AmazonKuiper3,326
Hanwha SystemsN/A2,000
SatRevolutionREC1,024

Orbital crowding with satellites and space junk can cause both physical congestion and electromagnetic interference, hindering communication and security in space.

Challenge #3:
Space Security

Militaries use space to support operations with communications, intelligence, navigation, and surveillance satellites, which play an important role in both national and international security.

However, with more nations integrating space into their security measures, there is an increased risk of conflict in case of any satellite interference. As a result, militaries are developing capabilities to disrupt, degrade, or destroy satellites for national security reasons.

Since 1959, China, India, Russia, and the U.S. have carried out more than 70 anti-satellite (ASAT) tests collectively. These tests generated over 5,000 pieces of debris that are currently being tracked, in addition to the thousands of smaller objects that are too small to track.

Managing Space: A Resource for the Future

Space junk, orbital crowding, and space security are challenges that call for policies, practices, and technologies to use space sustainably.

Potential solutions to these issues range from technical measures like removing space debris, managing orbital traffic, and improving situational awareness, to policy measures like space governance, data-sharing, and implementing effective regulations.

While some of these initiatives are already underway, such as the world’s first debris removal mission launching in 2025, ensuring space sustainability on a global level will require policy and technical measures on a global scale.

Secure World Foundation promotes cooperative solutions for space sustainability and the peaceful uses of outer space.

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Visualizing Raw Material Inflation in Canada

Over the last year, raw material inflation in Canada was 37%. Which material prices jumped the most, and how does this impact manufacturers?

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Spiral bar chart showing raw material inflation in Canada from May 2021 to May 2022. Crude energy products such as coal and crude oil had the highest inflation rates.

Raw Material Inflation in Canada

Inflation in Canada is climbing, and it has impacted the raw materials manufacturers use to produce goods. In fact, raw material prices have climbed 37% year-over-year on average.

More than half of manufacturers say this is one of their top challenges. In this graphic from Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), we show which materials have seen the biggest price spikes over the last year.

Inflation by Raw Material

The table below shows the rate of inflation in Canada for select raw materials from May 2021 to May 2022.

Raw MaterialCategoryPrice Change
(May 2021-May 2022)
CoalCrude Energy95.2%
Crude Oil & BitumenCrude Energy85.0%
WheatCrops73.4%
Natural GasCrude Energy50.3%
Beans, Peas, & LentilsCrops43.3%
Logs & Forestry ProductsForestry Products & Natural Rubber42.1%
Scrap MetalMetal Ores & Scrap40.3%
Canola/RapeseedCrops30.6%
PotashNon-metallic Minerals24.7%
Fish & Fishery ProductsAnimal Products23.7%
Lead & Zinc OresMetal Ores & Scrap21.2%
Cattle & CalvesAnimal Products10.2%
Eggs in ShellAnimal Products8.4%
PoultryAnimal Products8.3%
Sand, Gravel, & ClayNon-metallic Minerals8.1%
Fresh Fruit & NutsCrops8.0%
Nickel OresMetal Ores & Scrap5.8%
Tin, Iron Alloys, & Other OresMetal Ores & Scrap3.3%
Gold OresMetal Ores & Scrap2.1%
Natural RubberForestry Products & Natural Rubber1.4%

Crude energy materials led the rise, with the price of coal nearly doubling over the last year. Oil and natural gas prices also rose amid war-related supply constraints and higher demand as people got back to pre-pandemic activities. This has far-reaching consequences for manufacturers given that oil and gas is widely used for transportation and heat, and is an input in thousands of products.

Wheat inflation in Canada reached 73.4%. The cost increase was partly due to a drought in Western Canada that reduced Canadian wheat production by nearly 40% from 2020 to 2021. Internationally, the Russia-Ukraine conflict also threatened wheat supply as the two countries normally account for almost a third of global wheat exports. Wheat inflation has affected food and fuel manufacturers the most, as it is used for livestock feed, biofuels, and a wide range of human food.

Simultaneously, the price of lumber increased by 42.1% because of an increased demand for housing, and flooding in British Columbia that reduced supply. This affects manufacturers who produce things like timber and plywood, and ultimately influences the cost of housing.

How Inflation in Canada Affects Manufacturers

Raw material inflation drives up manufacturers’ cost of doing business. Unfortunately, it isn’t the only price pressure they face. Ocean shipping costs are more than five times higher compared to when the pandemic began. Truck transportation costs rose by 15% from March 2021 to March 2022, based on the latest available data.

On top of this, manufacturers have to contend with supply chain disruptions, global uncertainty, and labor shortages. What can manufacturers do? A majority of manufacturers have been raising prices to pass on some of the additional costs to consumers.

Response to Supply Chain Challenges% of Manufacturers 
Increase prices80%
Delay fulfilling customer orders79%
Find alternative supplier of raw materials and other inputs69%
Increase inventories63%
Cut production30%
Lay off workers9%
Other7%

Over the longer term, manufacturers say they plan to build stronger relationships with customers and suppliers, source critical raw materials from two suppliers, and bring their supplier base and production closer to home.

Looking ahead, most manufacturers say they expect supply chain issues to be resolved some time in 2023—though they were last asked this question before the war in Ukraine began. The Bank of Canada also expects inflation in Canada to ease in the second half of 2023. In the meantime, manufacturers will be forced to adapt to rising costs.

Learn more about how CME helps manufacturers grow at home and abroad through programs, services, and advocacy.

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Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market

Operational health tech is poised to be a multi-billion dollar industry. This graphic breaks down how its disrupting healthcare as we know it.

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Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market

Many lessons were learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but what has become most apparent is the need to invest in healthcare on all fronts. In fact in just a few short years, businesses, governments, and consumers have had to entirely reassess healthcare in ways not quite seen before.

What’s more, this elevated importance placed on health could be here to stay, and one area in particular is poised for significant growth: operational health tech.

The graphic above from our sponsor Bloom Health Partners dives into the burgeoning market that is operational health tech, and reveals the key driving forces behind it.

What is Operational Health?

To start, operational health is an industry that provides health services to employees to help keep companies running smoothly.

A critical piece of operational health is workplace health, which is expected to soar in value. From 2021 to 2025, the market for workplace health is expected to grow 200% from $6.5 billion to $19.5 billion.

The industry is undergoing a tremendous amount of innovation, specifically in relation to technological advances.

Operational Health Tech: Disrupting Healthcare

The operational health tech industry is disrupting traditional healthcare by providing direct services to employees in the workplace.

For decades now, the U.S. has increasingly become a statistical outlier for healthcare spending relative to health outcomes. For instance, the average American incurs $9,000 in healthcare spending per year, nearly twice that of OECD countries, yet life expectancy is flatlining while other countries see rises.

A worsening and increasingly expensive health dynamic makes the environment ripe for disruption and is allowing for new ideas to be brought to the table.

In addition, people are already responding to these inefficient practices by shifting greater emphasis on health within the job market. For example, studies show that workers care more about healthcare benefits over the salaries when choosing an employer.

Going forward, employees will gravitate towards employers that provide standout health benefits like workplace healthcare options offered by operational health. Here are some additional factors that act as catalysts for this space.

1. Healthcare as Smart Business

What do companies that rank as some of the best to work for have in common? First, they all tend to outperform relative to the S&P 500 on a cumulative stock performance basis. Second, many offer superior healthcare benefits.

Moreover, from 2012 to 2022, companies that were the best to work for saw shares appreciate nearly 500%, compared to around 300% for the broader market. Data like this suggests investing in healthcare and keeping employees happy is smart business that pays dividends.

2. Healthcare as a Differentiator

Since 2020, labor markets have changed dramatically. As a result, employees now have more options and are much more selective about where they work. This is evident from the difference between job openings and hires which has risen to unrecognizable levels. For example, the data shows that there are nearly 12 million job openings, but only around 6-7 million hires in 2022.

Altogether, with an oversupply of jobs relative to workers, employers will have to find new ways to differentiate. One way to stand out is through healthcare and initiatives around operational health tech.

3. The Looming Mental Health Epidemic

Today some 700 million people suffer from some form of a mental health condition and COVID-19 has continued to exacerbate the problem.

Moreover, the cost of mental health for the global economy is estimated to be a whopping $6 trillion by 2030, over double compared to the $2.5 trillion figure in 2010.

Under the umbrella of services operational health tech covers, mental health will stand to benefit. Especially in the years to come as we look for new ways to combat its mounting costs.

Investing in Operational Health Tech

Bloom Health Partners is an operational health tech company looking to revolutionize workplace health by supplying employers with data to better understand their employee base and business.

One way Bloom stands out is with Bloom Shield—its flagship cloud-based big data platform for employee health data management. With Bloom Shield, new health insights become available to make better decisions. Employers can get insight into demographic data and age trends within the workplace, pre-screening detection for cancer and diabetes, and testing for management to tackle the spread of disease.

Click here to learn more about investing in operational health tech with Bloom Health Partners.

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