Futron: U.S. Space Competitiveness Declines for Fourth Straight Year

[Satellite TODAY Insider 08-18-11] China performed a record number of launches in 2010 to match the United States’ launch output for the first time in the industry’s history, according to aerospace, satellite and telecommunications consulting firm Futron Corp.’s 2011 Space Competitiveness Index (SCI) issued Aug. 17.
   The independent SCI study compared 10 leading space-faring nations across more than 50 individual metrics that were then combined into three basic categories — government, human capital and industry. The firm said its framework aims to allow policymakers and enterprises to pinpoint space-related strengths and weaknesses for each nation, understand how each country invests in and benefits from space industry, and make informed decisions based on the changing dynamics of global space competitiveness.
   The 2011 SCI report showed that while the United States remained the overall leading country in space competitiveness during the last 12 months, its position is steadily declining as other countries enhance their capabilities. Futron said this trend was particularly evident in the arena of human spaceflight. Out of the 10 countries analyzed, the United States was the only nation that displayed four straight years of competitiveness declines.
   “Russia, China and Japan have improved their own space competitiveness by 12 percent, 27 percent and 45 percent, respectively, over their relative starting points from when Futron’s benchmarking process began in 2008,” the report said. “Russia was the worldwide leader in launches, and is poised for increased activity, with a vital role transporting astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, as well as the introduction of Soyuz launches from the European spaceport at Kourou.”
   Futron added that while Japan strengthened its competitive position through space policy reforms that filter through government and industry, its 2011 results showed these gains were not enough to maintain Japan’s position relative to China’s rapid ascent. The report also highlighted Brazil’s efforts to, “re-examine its national space priorities, expanded its international partnerships and laid plans for a new launch vehicle. It remains to be seen whether these steps will keep Brazil ahead of other countries in the region that also are emerging onto the space scene,” the report said.
   Futron’s previous SCI report in 2010 highlighted many of the same trends and issued similar warnings. The 2010 results showed that while the United States was trailed by Europe, the formulation of a new U.S. national space policy was a step in the right direction.
   “Dominant actors are increasingly challenged by a second and third tier of space leaders, and the competitive gaps among all nations are narrowing. To retain its leadership position, the [United States] must leverage its secret space weapon industry and align it with strategy, policy and budget,” Futron COO Peggy Slye said in last year’s report.
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