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Space Symposium Highlights: 2008 World Space Economy Up $6 Billion To $257 Billion

By | March 30, 2009

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      The world space economy increased by almost 2.5 percent, or $6 billion, to $257 billion last year, amidst the deepest global economic downturn in more than half a century, a Space Foundation report stated.

      The Space Report 2009 was released at the Foundation conference, the National Space Symposium, being held this week at Colorado Springs, Colo.

      While the space age was born a half century ago led by government agencies, a sea change has occurred, where two-thirds of space activity today is private.

      Specifically, the largest segments of the space economy were in commercial infrastructure and commercial satellite services, which together totaled 67 percent, compared to about 32 percent for government space spending.

      The largest growth sectors were space products and services, which grew 10.4 percent from $82.4 billion to $91 billion. The majority of this figure is attributable to direct- to-home television services, which generated $69.8 billion in 2008.

      Fixed satellite services showed the strongest growth rate in the services sector, with revenue up 31 percent from $12.8 billion to $16.8 billion.

      Even with this growth, space industry stocks suffered along with the world economy in 2008. The Space Foundation Index, which tracks the market performance of 29 public companies that derive a significant amount of their revenue from space-related assets and activities, revealed that space stocks in U.S. markets declined 45 percent in 2008, erasing the gains from three consecutive years of growth. Still, space investment and output remained strong in 2008 and continued to provide hundreds of thousands of highly compensated jobs.

      Some of the major companies in the space industry also have exposure to other businesses suffering tough times, such as the airline industry.

      This year, the report launched two additional indexes to help analysts better track public equity market space stocks:

      • The Space Foundation Infrastructure Index, which tracks performance of space-related hardware, software, and integration services for space-related applications such as manufacturing of satellites, launch vehicles, terminals and chipsets.
      • The Space Foundation Services Index, which tracks performance of companies that derive significant revenues from services that depend on space assets for collection, transmission, and/or provisioning, such as those related to satellite broadcasting, communications, and remote sensing.

      All three indexes are updated daily at on the Web.

      "Despite the immensely challenging economic time, the space business remains a good business," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. "The Space Report clearly illustrates that, although our industry is also feeling the pain of the economic downturn, space businesses have out-performed many other sectors.

      "The Space Report spells out many challenges," he added, "But, there’s also innovation, advancement and real excitement about what’s happening in space today."

      The Space Report 2009 examines and analyzes the state of the space industry. Covering primarily 2008 data, it contains information on global space budgets and revenues, a yearly summary, and a number of new features, including:

      • A section examining trends in education and their impact on the space industry
      • Greatly expanded data on international (non-U.S.) space activities
      • A special report on astronomy and space science
      • New information on spaceports and spaceport authorities/coalitions

      "The new education section in The Space Report 2009 waves the biggest warning flag for our nation," said Pulham. "U.S. student performance in math and science continues to lag many other countries — including many that are starting to challenge U.S. leadership in space.

      "And, we’re graduating fewer and fewer homegrown engineers and scientists," he continued. "It’s a troublesome trend that must be addressed."

      Despite current problems in some areas, the report indicates that the long-term outlook for the global space industry is encouraging. "While the equity markets suffered, other measures of success — employment, payroll, output, manufacturing and launches — all grew and continue to improve year over year," said Pulham. "Importantly, we’re seeing the real benefits of our space investments in the form of almost daily scientific and technological breakthroughs. Meanwhile the number of spacefaring nations is growing almost as rapidly."

      The report also provides an overview of the past year in space. Major accomplishments include:

      • The discovery by the Phoenix Mars Lander of water ice on Mars, a sign of the potential for life on the planet
      • The successful destruction of a satellite by missile to prevent an uncontrolled fall from orbit
      • The first Chinese spacewalk, making China only the third nation to independently complete this feat
      • Completion of 59 consecutive successful launches by the Air Force and its commercial contractors
      • Space X launching the first-ever orbital launch vehicle funded entirely with private capital, successfully carrying a payload into space

      Boeing Briefings

      Separately, The Boeing Co. [BA] is briefing on and exhibiting several of its programs, including satellites, missile defense systems, human spaceflight programs, operationally responsive space systems and network-centric capabilities during the symposium this week.

      The Boeing exhibit will feature demonstrations of the company’s support for NASA’s Constellation programs, including the Ares I crew launch vehicle, satellite operations and ground control systems. The exhibit also contains interactive displays of the Wideband Global SATCOM system, the Airborne Laser missile defense program and space hardware that is advancing the architecture and application of small satellites.

      Boeing is providing part of the Ares I rocket that will lift the next-generation Orion spacecraft into orbit. (Please see separate story in this issue on an Orion mockup on display today.)

      The company is briefing on Boeing work on the International Space Station, the space shuttle fleet that will retire next year, and the Ares rocket program.

      Another briefing will highlight the Space Based Space Surveillance System, a constellation of satellites that can detect and track orbiting space objects, including orbital debris and potential threats to the United States’ space assets.

      That system would respond to the threat of space debris, illustrated by Space Shuttle Discovery having to move the space station out of the way of a piece of space junk streaking through the void, and the loss of an Irdium Satellites LLC bird when it was hit by a defunct Russian intel satellite.

      As well, U.S. military and civilian leaders are concerned about potential anti-satellite shots.

      Separately, Boeing will cover military communication satellites, including the Wideband Global Satcom System and the Global Positioning System, or GPS.

      Finally, Boeing will brief on Operationally Responsive Space, including work on the X-51A WaveRider, and Operationally Responsive Space-related activities, including NanoSats, High Integrity Global Positioning System, Plug-n-Play spacecraft and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Fast Access Spacecraft Testbed program.

      Northrop Updates LCROSS

      Also at the symposium, Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] will discuss the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission, launch status and anticipated scientific contributions.

      LCROSS currently is at Kennedy Space Center undergoing integration on an Atlas 5 for launch this spring on a mission to search for water ice on the moon.

      Some 90 days following its launch, LCROSS will impact the moon creating a plume of lunar soil visible to space- and ground-based observatories. Data from the impact will add to knowledge of the moon currently being acquired by international lunar missions from India, Japan and China.

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