On Dec. 2, SpaceX is expected to launch the most satellites ever carried by an American rocket: 64 small satellites, operated by 34 customers from 17 countries.

For perspective, 335 small satellites were launched in all of 2017, according to researcher from Bryce Space Technologies.

The promise of Elon Musk’s space company, like most venture-backed start-ups, is the promise of exponential growth. Today, billions of venture dollars are flowing to space start-ups on the belief that the relatively small amount of revenue earned in orbit today will expand dramatically in the future.

But last year, the space industry brought in only $354 billion globally—far

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