Space was the final frontier for travelers, and it may be the final frontier for investors as well. Over the last decade, the space economy has emerged to the point where we see commercial companies launching spacecraft on a regular basis and space-related brands becoming household names. 

As the space economy grows, here's a little bit of what investors can expect over the next decade -- and where they should put their investment dollars. 

Rocket soaring into space.

Image source: Getty Images.

The space economy is growing

There are three ways to look at the space economy over the next decade. One is the consumer demand for space flight, which could be served by companies like Virgin Galactic (SPCE -6.43%). The second is the growth of commercial space applications, which range from satellites to research. And the third is government demand, which traditionally has come from NASA but now includes the Space Force and traditional military organizations. 

Added up, the space industry could be disruptive to business and extraordinarily profitable for investors. Morgan Stanley thinks the global space industry could generate $1 trillion in revenue by 2040. Analysts think the biggest opportunity is satellite broadband, which will be 50% to 70% of space-related revenue, so that's an area to keep an eye on. But there are other space-related opportunities for investors.

The question now is: How do investors make money off this booming space economy? 

The space company

Virgin Galactic won't fly paying customers into space until 2021, but when it does, the company could open a new market in space tourism. As of July 30, 2020, it had deposits from 600 customers for a short space flight that costs as much as $250,000. But for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go into space, the ticket price may be worth it. Management has said that costs will come down as the frequency of flights goes up to a planned 270 flights in 2023.

While space tourism is going to be the first step for Virgin Galactic, it won't be the last. The company is already designing a high-altitude aircraft that will transport between nine and 19 passengers at Mach 3. This high-speed travel will be functional, but it'll also get people to 60,000 feet, which isn't quite space but it's close, and for our purposes here I'll include it in the potential of the space economy. 

Virgin Galactic is the only real pure-play space company available to investors today. With $0 in revenue last quarter it's obviously a growth stock given the low base it's starting from. 

Space manufacturing

Any spacecraft needs high-precision parts to operate and that's where specialty manufacturers like Heico (HEI 0.03%) make their money. The company has long been a supplier to airlines, military, and NASA, but now it'll make its way to a new generation of space companies. As the industry grows, we can expect that Heico will find a way to grow its business. 

Boeing (BA -2.78%) is another company that has a long history of providing services related to space. The company is a contractor for NASA and is building a high-bandwidth satellite network in orbit.

Raytheon Technologies (RTX -0.32%) and Maxar Technologies (MAXR) are two space technology companies that provide services to a wide range of entities. They're also contractors in non-space businesses, which gives diversity but not the same level of space focus as Virgin Galactic or some other companies we may see eventually IPO. 

Future IPOs investors should watch for

Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin are the two biggest names in the space business and they're still private. SpaceX has raised billions of dollars from investors and may eventually see the need to go public. And with a high-profile business, it would be a hot stock on the market. 

Blue Origin is wholly owned by Jeff Bezos and may not ever need to go public. But it would also be highly anticipated if it hits the market. 

There are dozens of other companies like Swarm Technologies, Accion Systems, and Capella Space that could be coming public over the next decade. 

Where is the space economy going? 

We're already seeing the space industry go from harebrained idea to nascent revenue streams totaling billions of dollars today. Ten years from now, we're likely to have a large network of commercial satellites, a space tourism industry, and even a functioning Space Force. For investors, this will be a multibillion-dollar opportunity with manufacturing and technology companies leading the way.

Like other high-tech industries, the companies that create technology and take significant market share will be able to command high margins and potentially generate high profits. That's what could make the space economy a huge winner long-term.