What Are Your Projections For The Global Space Industry?

Credit: NASA

Ask the Editors: The Aviation Week Network invites our readers to submit questions to our editors and analysts. We’ll answer them, and if we can’t we’ll reach out to our wide network of experts for advice. 

Spending for space tends to be tied to defense budgets in many countries. What are your projections for the global space industry?

Aviation Week Executive Editor, Defense and Space Jen DiMascio responds: 

In 2018, the global space industry was worth $328.9 billion, according to the Space Foundation. While much of the funding for space starts either with the military or with government-funded civil space programs such as NASA, that only makes up about 20% of the total amount of spending on space. From there, the technologies developed by governments tend to take on a life of their own.

Actually, the largest supporter of space technologies is the satellite communication industry—including satellite television, as well as ground equipment for items such as navigation devices. In more recent years, billionaire investors including SpaceX’s Elon Musk, Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, have pumped their own investment into building launch vehicles and satellites for the future. Venture capitalists have followed, seeding growth in launch companies and small-satellite firms. New potential markets for space tourism, Earth observation and data analysis from space have pushed expectations for the global space economy higher and higher.

By 2040, the Space Foundation, Morgan Stanley and others predict that the global space economy will exceed $1.1 trillion. But it is unclear the extent to which COVID-19 will affect that growth. Small companies without funding are already falling by the wayside, though companies that have government funding expect to survive the pandemic and be positioned to capitalize on future growth once business returns.

For the short term, government programs are considered a safe haven. The U.S., seeing increased competition by China and Russia, is boosting its investment in military space, seeking $18 billion in fiscal 2021, $15 billion of which would be directed toward development of spacecraft, launch vehicles and other equipment. And NASA, chasing the goal of putting astronauts back on the Moon by 2024, is seeking $25 billion in fiscal 2021—a 12% increase over the previous year.

Jen DiMascio

Based in Washington, Jen previously managed Aviation Week’s worldwide defense, space and security coverage.