Global Space Economy Hit $447B In 2020, Report Shows

Credit: Space Foundation database

COLORADO SPRINGS—Despite the worldwide pandemic, the global space economy grew 4.4% last year to reach $447 billion, with the commercial sector accounting for the bulk of the increase, a new Space Foundation report shows.

Overall government spending on space programs dipped slightly in 2020 due to cutbacks by Russia, India, Italy and especially Brazil, which had a 75% reduction, said Lesley Conn, senior manager for research and analysis at the Space Foundation. Conn spoke to reporters during the opening day of the 36th annual Space Symposium here. 

Other nations, including France, bolstered spending on space during the pandemic, but the gains were not enough to offset other nations’ budget cuts. “We do anticipate that there will be a return to space spending,” Conn said. 

The U.S., China and European countries remained at the top of the list of countries’ space budgets. Combined, they account for more than 81% of the $90 billion that governments spent on space projects last year.

The rest of the $447 billion space economy was due to commercial space products and services ($219.4 billion) and commercial infrastructure and support industries ($137.2 billion), the Space Foundation report says. “Commercial spending is roughly 80% of the total space economy,” Conn said.

During the 15 years that the Space Foundation has been studying global spending on space, the industry has grown 176%, mostly fueled by the rise of private investment. 

“Over the last five years, satellite deployment has grown 3,000%,” noted report contributor Mariel Borowitz, associate professor at Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. “That’s a pretty staggering number ... and we’re just beginning to see how that will develop.”

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.