Space disco is the fusion of disco music with futuristic themes, sounds and visuals, a genre that became popular in the late 1970s. The main idea behind the genre is that of an exploration of the wonders of outer space by humans, and many bands often included robotic shapes, laser illumination and computer screen sequences in their live performances. The artists themselves often dressed in a manner inspired by glam rock and somewhat futuristic fashion. It has some thematic similarities to space rock, space funk and electronic soul.
Upon reaching Eastern Europe after 1980, the futuristic act was mainly dropped as many socialist state authorities often denied access to the stage for "inappropriately" dressed artists. Many bands then began performing at free, open-music events, festivals and formations to avoid political suppression, and the genre itself was slowly assimilated into purely instrumental, almost orchestral form.
Space disco was very popular in Europe between 1977-1979. Relatively popular artists that contributed to this music style include Meco ("Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band", which was also a no.1 hit in the U.S.), Cerrone ("Supernature"), Sarah Brightman ("I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper"), Didier Marouani & Space ("Magic Fly"), Ganymed ("It Takes Me Higher") and Sheila B. Devotion ("Spacer"). The German-based band Boney M. also adopted a space disco look for the cover artwork of their 1978 album, Nightflight to Venus, and the title track of the album typifies the genre with its robotic voice and futuristic theme.
Space disco spread fast in Germany with the help of Musikladen, a music show produced by the German channel NDR. Disco, another popular music show produced by ZDF, also hosted some space disco artists.
Around 1979, just before space disco faded, Dee D. Jackson brought it to Latin America (mainly Brazil and Argentina) with the success there of her 1978 album Cosmic Curves. Jackson was British but worked in Germany, and with the help of Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, managed to score a hit in the global charts of the time with "Automatic Lover".
At least one modern history of space disco traces the genre's origins to science fiction themes (outer space, robots, and the future) in the titles, lyrics and cover artwork of dance music in the late 1970s. Plausible associations are drawn between the popularity of Star Wars (released mid-1977), the subsequent surge in interest in science fiction themes in popular culture, and the release of a number of science fiction themed and "futuristic"-sounding (synthesizer and arpeggiator-infused) disco music worldwide.
P-Funk somehow became related with space disco, at least for a short while. The main reason for this could be that during the very early 1980s, the discothèques in France used to market P-Funk as the continuation of American disco after the Disco Demolition Night that took place in the United States on 1979. Also, the disco band Chic produced Sheila B. Devotion's biggest hit, "Spacer", which was a milestone of the Space Disco style, so it was natural to tell to the euro disco fans that P-Funk was Space Disco Related. The stage (and first video) appearances of the P-Funk artists, helped a lot in that direction.
Space disco had a presence in Canada because of the French-speaking population. In the very early 1980s, it inspired Canadian artists and producers to create their own Hi-NRG disco-like music style. In Europe, this style became known as "Canadian Disco". The best known groups of this music style are Trans-X and Lime. Canadian Disco integrated with the Italo disco scene in Europe, while it became a small part of Hi-NRG Disco in the U.S.A.
There are many Italo disco hits that have sci-fi themes and sound effects that were previously used in space disco. Many instrumental Italo disco remixes sounded very "space disco" like and some Italo disco artists and groups (most notable Koto and Laserdance) had space disco elements in their music until the late 1980s. The hybrid between space disco and Italo disco created after 1986 mostly in Eastern Europe is called "Synthesizer Dance" by some fans, and "Spacesynth" by Americans.
Another crossover between space disco and Italo disco was made by Italians producers and DJs in the early 1980s. They used to remix European hits in a "space disco" style. That was the case with the hit "Der Kommissar" by Falco.
The term "cosmo-rock" was first coined by the Soviet space disco performance band Zodiac from Latvian SSR in 1981. This was rather a name misunderstanding since Zodiac based their compositions on Didier Marouani's Space, not yet knowing the exact term for the genre. In the later years "space opera" or "disco opera" was also implied when both bands were touring in USSR and featured both terms on their posters (such as "cosmo-rock, space disco and opera performers", for example).
Space disco became the main influence and inspiration for the 1990s French house scene, the last of the Euro disco music styles.