Lesley Conn, Space Foundation senior manager in research and analysis, briefed reporters on the global space economy Aug. 23 at the 36th Space Symposium. Credit: Tom

COLORADO SPRINGS – The overall space economy expanded 4.4 percent to $447 billion in 2020 with more nations participating than ever before, according to the Space Foundation’s updated Space Report.

Global government spending on military and civil space programs, however, declined slightly in 2020 compared with 2019.

“Overall, there was the slightest decline, down 1.2 percent,” said Lesley Conn, Space Foundation senior manager in research and analysis, said Aug. 23 during a press briefing at the 36th Space Symposium.

Commercial activity continues to account for the lion’s share of the overall space economy with commercial space products and services claiming $219.44 or 49.1 percent of the money spent in the global space economy in 2020. Commercial infrastructure and support activities accounted for another $137.23, 30.7 percent of the total market.

The U.S. government spent $51.8 billion on civil and military space in 2020, contributing 11.6 percent of the global space economy. All other governments contributed $38.4 billion or 8.6 percent of the total.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, government spending on space rose in 2020 in the United States, China, Spain, France, Germany and for the European Space Agency. France’s domestic space budgets jumped 40 percent year over year.

In contrast, government space expenditures fell in Russia, Italy, India and Brazil in 2020, compared with 2019.

Some nations did elevate spending, but “it just wasn’t enough to offsets some of the corrections that were made in 2020,” Conn said. “In 2021, we do anticipate that there will be a return to space spending and we’ll see those budgets adjust accordingly.”

In 2020, the United States, European Space Agency and China accounted for more than 81 percent of global government space outlays.

Military space spending overall dipped modestly in 2020, according to the Space Report.

Since the Space Foundation began publishing the Space Report in 2005, the global space economy has surged 176 percent.

“A lot of that is fueled by commercial growth,” Conn said.

With each edition of the Space Report, analysts include data on nations beginning to enter the space sector. The new report notes space-related activity in nearly a dozen nations not tracked in previous reports.

Employment in the space sector was relatively stable in 2020. There were additional spacecraft manufacturing jobs, while space telecommunications employment decreased.

The changes were “relatively steady across the year,” said Mariel Borowitz, associate professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. “So, not so much pandemic-related as larger trends that were already happening.”

The new report also highlights an uptick in space launch activity. During the first half of 2021, there were 61 successful space launches, compared with 45 for the first six months of 2020 and 41 in 2019.

“We do anticipate that at year-end, we will have numbers to show that same level of [launch activity] growth,” Conn said.

What’s more, boosters were recovered in one out of every three space launches conducted during the first half of 2021.

“As you might anticipate it is largely driven by SpaceX and the work that they’ve done,” Conn said.

Emerging space nations tend to enter the space sector by establishing partnerships with prominent space agencies including NASA, the European Space Agency and the China National Space Administration, Conn said.

With the assistant of partners, the emerging space nations often build and launch cubesats or nanosatellite payloads before establishing their own programs to develop space-based communications, agricultural monitoring or environmental monitoring, Conn added.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...