Growth of the Space Economy

By Mateo Michalec

The space economy grew at its fastest annual pace in 2021 since 2014, hitting a record of $469 billion according to the Space Foundation. This represents a 9% growth from 2020. The commercial space sector saw the largest boost in revenues at 6.4%. More than $138 billion was spent on infrastructure and support for commercial space enterprises and $224 billion coming from products and services delivered by space companies. A large part of this growth is due to more government spending on military and civil space programs including a 18% increase by the US and 36% by India.

2022 has seen a bit of a slowdown in the U.S. market but the space economy is expected to weather the storm and continue to grow this year. Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor said: “Maybe it won’t be this record-breaking number, but the space industry has really shown itself to be pretty resilient.” He noted the industry’s growth during the height of the Covid pandemic.

“I really don’t see a change,” he said. Government spending continues to grow, and Zelibor highlighted that there are “over 90 countries operating in space now.”

The Space Foundation is a U.S. nonprofit founded in 1983, focused on education and advocacy regarding the industry.

The United States remains the biggest spender, with its $60 billion total space budget nearly quadruple of the next largest, China. Additionally, India and multiple European countries each increased space spending by 30% or more in 2021, although those countries’ budgets remain under $2 billion a year.

“The incredible growth of the global space economy is a testament to the talented professionals who innovate new ideas for space every day to help humanity and the ever- growing reliance on those benefits from space for all the people of Earth,” said Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor. “The booming space industry will need to expand its workforce to sustain this kind of growth. That means delivering the message to everyone, from kindergarten on up, that they have a place in space at one of the most exciting times since we first reached for the stars.”

Some major milestones to make note of in the first part of 2022 are:

  • Most amount of rocket launches since 1967 with 75 launches
  • Launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (Dec 25th, 2021) with the first images coming in on July 12th,
  • The Pentagon has purchased new constellations of satellites to spot hypersonic weapons and create new defenses, this will include satellites to knock down the weapons. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it came with the first acknowledged battlefield use of the hypersonic weapons and has put many countries on high alert to develop these sophisticated defense

Major events to look forward to in the latter half of 2022 are:

  • Space Launch System (SLS) Megarocket Artemis 1 launch, with humanity returning to the moon. Launch window is opened on August 29th, 2022 at 8:33 am ET. (Multiple windows throughout the week)
  • Anticipating a SpaceX Starship test launch sometime in the latter half of (no official date has been announced yet)
  • Rocket Lab USA, will host an update on the development of the new Neutron rocket on September 21st, 2022. We also anticipate another helicopter catch of the booster in the second half of 2022 according to the CEO Peter Beck.

Access our previous articles on the space industry:

Environment Impacts & Benefits of Space

Rockets & Satellites

Investing in Space

The Future of Space

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