The global space economy grew 8% to $546 billion in 2022 and is expected to rise another 41% over the next five years, according to a leading space nonprofit.
The sector is expected to show resilience in the coming years, despite uncertainties about the global economy and the recent slowdown in space investment.
Companies are seeing continued growth in revenue from commercial space assets and governments around the world are increasing expenses, according to a report from the Space Foundation, a spaceflight advocacy group in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The analysis looked at spending from 51 governments, as well as commercial revenue from companies in 11 subsectors of the space industry.
“Commercial space is a vital, growing sector of the overall space economy,” Leslie Kuhn, director of research and digital programming at the Space Foundation, said in an interview. “Within five years, you will certainly see a real acceleration and expansion of space and space assets.”
Companies in the space industry grew revenue to $427.6 billion in 2022, up from a revised $396.2 billion a year earlier. A third of that came from infrastructure and supporting activities in space, such as ground stations used for satellite communications. The rest came from space products – that is, satellites. The largest single business was selling position, navigation and timing, or PNT, satellite data, which accounted for 39% of all business revenue.
The report said this flexibility partly reflects the long development times of space programs and the proliferation of public-private partnerships. These traits help maintain finances, even when the economy is uneven.
Growth in 2022 came despite volatile venture capital as markets responded to higher interest rates and access to financing became scarce for many startups. Private investment flows into space projects slowed to $20 billion last year, down from a record $47.4 billion in 2021, according to a separate report from Space Capital, the venture capital firm that invests exclusively in space-based technology.
Commercial revenue grew along with the increase in orbital launches. The space agency said a total of 186 launches took place in 2022, up from 145 the previous year. Commercial launches accounted for 81 of those, 50 of which were conducted by Elon Musk’s industry leader SpaceX. The company’s launch cadence has increased exponentially in recent years as it has launched constellations of its Starlink satellites into space to provide broadband internet coverage on Earth.
Government spending on space programs grew 8% to total $119 billion last year, down from a 22% gain in 2021. The Space Foundation expects public sector spending on space to pick up pace this year as countries explore the moon and prioritize large satellite constellations with military applications. NASA is moving forward with the Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman to the surface of the moon. China also has plans to land humans there.
Civilian and defense spending in space was dominated by the United States, making up nearly 60% of all spending. China follows in second place, accounting for 14%, according to the Space Foundation’s analysis, which was based on a gross domestic product calculation that estimated the country’s spending on space. The European Space Agency is in third place with 5% of the total. While these three have been big players for a while, more countries contribute to public spending on space than they have in the past.
“Not only are governments that have been in space increasing their spending, but more and more countries are joining and becoming part of space,” Kuhn said, noting that some 92 countries now have satellites in orbit.