The cost of accessing space has dropped rapidly, making it more feasible for state and local government to work with companies that launch, maintain and provide a range of services through satellites.
The modern technology stack is typically described as a pyramid: At the bottom is infrastructure, in the middle is a platform, and on top of it all is software. Each layer supports the next.
The evolving commercial space tech industry — which appears to have some interesting use cases for state and local government work — can be thought of in much the same way. On the ground, there's launching infrastructure to send hardware into orbit. Circling the Earth are satellites carrying various cameras, sensors and other tools. And through that technology, software is able to deliver data and services.
SpaceX also operates in all three layers of the stack — they launch, they orbit and they provide services, including the planned Starlink satellite constellation slated to bring Internet connectivity to hard-to-reach areas.
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which acquired rocket-launched Orbital Sciences in 2018, offers a variety of launching and satellite services. Relative newcomer Rocket Lab is working specifically on smaller launches.
Amazon and Amazon Web Services are, perhaps, surprising players in the industry. The diversified tech giant is offering services to satellites, including "Ground Station as a Service" — helping to establish a link between ground and orbit. Like SpaceX, Amazon has plans to create a satellite constellation for Internet connectivity purposes.
Companies that focus more on the top service layer include Planet and Swarm, which both own satellites in space and intend to use them to provide imagery and monitoring services to customers in a variety of industries.
Government Technology plans to continue covering this niche going forward. If you are aware of a space company that has a connection to state and local government, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.