Space Foundation Report Released At Space Symposium

By | April 14, 2008 | Satellite News Feed

Worldwide Space Industry Output Increased To $251 Billion Last Year; Industry Soars A Sizzling 11 Percent, Double World Economic Growth Rate

Government Spending On Satellites, Missile Defense And More Is Secure; Stable Government Support For Space Seen Continuing For Years

Output of the global space industry rocketed a blistering 11 percent last year to reach $251 billion, the Space Foundation announced in its Space Report 2008 released at the National Space Symposium at Colorado Springs, Colo.

That robust 11 percent growth rate is more than double the 4.9 percent growth rate for the entire world economy last year, as calculated last week by the International Monetary Fund in its World Economic Outlook report at the IMF annual spring meeting in Washington.

All of that space industrial output in 2007 wouldn’t exist had it not been for the Soviet Union and the United States governments launching the first ventures into space roughly half a century ago, a relatively tiny investment that has spawned a gigantic industry.

Today, that seed planted by government has yielded a global endeavor that is predominantly private, not government

For example, U.S public space spending (NASA, military and more) comprised only 25 percent, or $62.55 billion, of the $251.16 billion global space industry, according to the report. And other governments spend just $14.7 billion, another 6 percent slice of the global industry pie.

Global positioning satellite services advanced a strong 20 percent to $56.19 billion, or 22 percent.

Private enterprises are true giants of the industry, with direct-to-home TV satellite broadcasting up an impressive 19 percent to a hefty $65.42 billion last year. That was the largest single category of all, making up 26 percent of the total worldwide industry pie.

Commercial infrastructure outlays come to $34.35 billion, or 14 percent. (If you add them up, the report says that commercial satellite services zoomed up 20 percent to $138.83 billion last year, or 55 percent of the entire pie. In other words, commercial satellite services make up more than half the industry.)

Miscellaneous other categories come to $17.22 billion, or 7 percent.

Two other categories, infrastructure support and space commercial transportation services, now amount to less than 1 percent of industry outlays.

But that latter category is poised for huge growth:

"Private exploration of space by entrepreneurs and adventurers who invest significant personal funds represents an industry sector in its infancy, that could in the near future reach a turning point toward significant development," the report predicted.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has noted that NASA urgently requires a means to move cargo and astronauts to and from the space station after the space shuttles stop flying in 2010, until the next-generation U.S. spaceship Orion-Ares begins flying in March 2015. To that end, NASA initiated a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS, program to provide seed money to private firms that are developing spacecraft. They include SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a privately held company) and Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB].

What NASA mainly hopes for from COTS initiatives is cargo hauling. During that gap when the United States has no spaceflight capabilities, astronauts likely will be transported to the space station by Russian Soyuz spaceships, at a huge price that may be determined in contract talks later this year.

Government backing of both military and civil space programs is likely to endure, including outlays on missile defense, according to the report.

"Government demand for satellite communication and ground-imaging platforms, as well as development in military arenas, such as missile defense, indicate that the long-standing base of the space industry — government investment and spending — is secure and will continue to be for years to come," the report predicted.

"Cooperative effort toward completing the International Space Station and plans for ambitious manned and unmanned space exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond indicates steady and robust government involvement in space."

To be sure, some critics assert that President Bush hasn’t provided sufficient funding to make his vision of manned missions to the moon, Mars and beyond a reality, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee commerce, justice, science and related agencies subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over NASA.

Abroad, space programs are ramping up sharply in China, India, Japan and the European Union, so that the United States may be left behind. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, April 7, 2008.)

Overall, the report shows that the space industry is good for workers seeking high-paying jobs, good for investors seeking high returns on investments, and good for the population generally seeking advanced technology capabilities.

Good For Workers, Investors, Consumers

Overall, a burgeoning space industry means sought-after jobs, worldwide, according to the report.

"Space industries are important economic engines, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs at wages far above the U.S. national average and fueling development of new products and services that can drive economies and change and benefit our daily lives," the report stated.

Benefits of space programs extend far beyond the space industry itself, touching the lives of ordinary people around the planet in countless ways, countless times each day.

From calling up video of traffic cameras to plot one’s route around gridlocked traffic in the morning, to watching a closed-circuit camera in one’s car so one doesn’t back into something in the driveway, to listening to satellite radio in the car, to getting better fuel mileage on the way to work because of a computer chip on the engine, to surfing the Web at work to monitor what competing companies are doing, to using voice recognition software on one’s computer to dictate a report one is writing, to using a cell phone to arrange a luncheon appointment and so much more, the benefits of space programs are omnipresent in people’s lives.

As for investors, the Space Foundation Index (SFI) of stocks in space-related firms has outperformed some popular, broad stock indexes.

The SFI has advanced 28.98 percent over three years, outperforming by more than 5 percentage points the Standard & Poor’s 500 index that rose 23.25 percent in the same period. The SFI ran even with the NASDAQ composite index, which advanced 28.94 percent.

To be sure, as stocks tumbled widely late last year amid fears that the U.S. economy was tumbling into recession, the SFI fell 11.4 percent during October-December last year. Despite that, however, the SFI still managed to post an 8.4 percent increase for all of 2007. That bested the 3.5 percent gain for the S&P, but fell somewhat short of the 9.8 percent NASDAQ rise.

Even as space is emerging as a place of international cooperation, it simultaneously is becoming a place of potential military competition, the report stated.

Early last year, China used a ground-based interceptor to demolish one of its own aging weather satellites, with the resultant impact creating an immense cloud of lethal space debris threatening satellites, spaceships and humans in space. That was greeted by advanced nations with shock and condemnation of the colossally irresponsible act.

A computer-generated image in the report shows the immense area girdling the Earth where the orbiting debris is moving in a menacing manner at 17,500 miles an hour. It will take decades for the thousands of pieces of debris to fall out of orbit and burn up during reentry.

To view The Space Report 2008 in an executive summary or in entirety, please go to http://www.spacefoundation.org and click on the report.

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