Worldwide space spending grew by more than $31 billion in 2011, but the laggard global economy continues to exert downward pressure on the industry, according to the latest report of the National Space Foundation.

Overall, government and commercial space spending reached an estimated $289.77 billion last year, the sixth year the industry posted an increase. The rate of growth was faster than in earlier years, with the bulk of the uptick derived from commercial activity rather than government spending, the organization states in “The Space Report 2012.”

“Despite this very healthy growth, governments and companies anticipate pressure on spending in the near term due to conditions in the broader economy,” the report’s authors write. “To counteract this effect, spacefaring nations and the private sector increased efforts to cooperate and pool resources.”

Even with the downward pressure, overall government spending on space grew 6% in 2011 compared to the previous year, but strong growth in the category designated commercial infrastructure and support industries — and smaller increases in other categories — cut the role of government in the space economy, the authors found. In 2010, government activity accounted for 27% of space spending worldwide, and the figure fell to 25% last year, the report says.

By comparison, commercial infrastructure and support industries grew 21% in 2010-11, up from $87.61 billion to $106.46 billion. But within that category, which includes commercial satellite manufacturing and ground stations and equipment, the commercial launch industry dropped 1.52% — from $2.45 billion in 2010 to $1.98 billion in 2011 — based on the FAA’s estimated value of commercial launches in 2011.

That value fell despite a 14% increase in the number of launches to orbit, for a total of 84. Russia had 31 launches, continuing the lead it has maintained since 2004. For the first time, China exceeded the U.S. launch rate, sending 19 rockets to orbit compared to 18 for the U.S. Even so, a comparison of payload mass shows Europe equaling China’s payload mass, even though it had only one-third the number of launches.

“This is partly due to the use of the Ariane 5 rocket, which is capable of carrying two large communications satellites with each flight; whereas China uses smaller, single-payload launch vehicles,” the authors note.

By far the largest customer of space products and services was the U.S. government, which spent $47.25 billion in 2011 — virtually the same as the year before. Within that amount, the Defense Department accounted for $26.46 billion — the same as the year before — while NASA spent $18.49 billion for a decline of 1.29%. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent $1.44 billion, a 2.86% increase, with the Energy Department, FAA, National Science Foundation, FCC and the U.S. Geological Survey rounding out U.S. government spending.

All of the world’s other governments put together did not match the Pentagon’s space expenditure in 2011, posting a $25.52 billion total, for a 19.14% increase. The European Space Agency led the rest of the pack with expenditures of $5.8 billion, followed by Russia ($4.12 billion), Japan $3.84 billion), China ($3.08 billion), India ($1.49 billion) and France ($1.11 billion).

“In purely financial terms, the expanding global demand for the services that the space industry provides has brought about rapid growth in commercial revenues, vastly outpacing increases in government spending,” the report concludes. “Space companies will continue to innovate, to create new goods, and to address needs on Earth by expanding the boundaries of what is possible in space. The grand total of nearly $290 billion in 2011 reflects only a part of the impact that space has on the global economy.”