[Satellite News 07-19-10] While the United States remains the global leader in space industry competitiveness, its position has diminished throughout past three years due to growing cooperation in the international community and a lack of appropriate response from the U.S. government, according to the Space Competitiveness Index report, released July 19 by analyst firm Futron.
Futron’s report, which is a comparative analysis of how countries invest in and benefit from space industry, asserts that the global space market may soon see new leaders emerge. “Dominant actors are increasingly challenged by a second and third tier of space leaders, and the competitive gaps among all nations are narrowing,” Futron COO Peggy Slye said.
For the United States, which is trailed by Europe in Futron’s space competitiveness index, the formulation of a new national space policy is a step in the right direction, said Futron CEO Joe Fuller. “To retain its leadership position, the [United States] must leverage its secret space weapon industry and align it with strategy, policy, and budget.”
The United States was not the only international space industry leader who saw its position fall in 2010. According to Futron, Brazil’s position as a top-10 space-participant nation is in jeopardy due to its national space program suffering from strategic drift for the past three years. “Brazil’s rocket program has yet to recover from the 2003 VLS explosion on the launch pad, and continued investments, including a joint launch venture with Ukraine, have yet to show returns,” Futron Senior Analyst David Vaccaro said in the report.
Vaccaro also noted that a Brazilian space policy refresh might be on the horizon, pointing to discussions held by the Brazilian Space Agency before an advisory committee to the National Congress of Brazil in September 2009.
Among the nations heading in a positive direction, Russia was identified in the report as a clear front-runner nation in space industry growth for 2010. Jonathan Beland, Futron’s Russian market analyst, said the country has doubled its space budget and renewed focus on monetizing its national space investment. “NASA and the U.S. government could learn a lot from Russia. Russia has become partner of choice for space agencies around the work seeking to develop new capacity. From South Korea to China, from private enterprise to governments, Russia is capitalizing on its space investments and developing long-term relationships with emerging powers,” he said.
Asian space competitiveness has seen drastic development in 2010, according to the Futron report, which outlined regional leaders Japan and China heading down separate roads. “Japan continues to realize competitiveness gains as it implements its comprehensive Basic Space Law, which provides a new military dimension to
Japanese space activity and creates an executive-level space office, the Strategic Headquarters for Space Activity. Beginning with the reorganization the Japanese space agency in 2003 and ending with the Basic Space Law, this first decade of the 21st century has shown Japan¹s clear recommitment to space at the national decision-making level,” said Vaccaro.
While China remains a clear leading nation in space development, the report noted that the country has recently experienced a decline in relative competitiveness due to lower launch tempos in 2010 and limited commercial space activity. “Over the past decade, China has arguably gone further, faster than any other spacefaring country, but its future international competitiveness will be more reliant on China establishing an international commercial space footprint,” said Vaccaro.
The report shows China and Japan outpacing South Korea in space competitiveness, and despite launch setbacks with its regional partners in India, South Korean policymakers remain committed to developing a domestic space industry and increasing national technology readiness levels, Futron analyst Ian Christensen said. “On the one hand, South Korea appears poised to advance as elements of its national space program come together; on the other hand, one wonders whether South Korea’s focus on its launcher program has detracted from other aspects of its space infrastructure, such as its successful commitment to Earth observation systems.”
For satellite manufacturing, the largest element of the overall space industry, the report shows the United States holding a 40 percent share of the total 1,027 spacecraft manufactured between 2000 and 2009, followed by Russia with 22 percent and Europe with 18 percent.