The Space Economy

The Space Economy

Rockets, satellites, space stations and colonies on other planets. Theses are all super exciting ideas and plans but often times people forget to think about the Space Economy driving these advancements. As of 2017 the space economy will total just around $300 billion USD for all countries and private enterprise combined. It's a rather solid estimate but there is sure to be some variation. This number is expected to grow significantly over the coming decades and many economist and private experts put the size of the space economy at $2.5 to$3 trillion in the next three decades. Even if you want to be super conservative and cut the number by 50% there will still be a $1.25 trillion dollar economy in space that entrepreneurs, investors, governments and private individuals should take and interest in. But what is the estimates of $2.5 to $3 trillion are already very conservative and the size of the economy is much larger? Seems like paying attention to space is at minimum a practical thing to do no matter how optimistic or pessimistic you views are. 

Now let's break down the current space economy as it is today so that you can get a clear understanding of where we are starting from and where the economy can go. To do this we're going to break the economy into:

  • Nation State/Government Actors and Private Companies
  • The main parts of the space industry
    • Satellites in Orbit
    • Satellite Systems (including system integration, platform and payloads)
    • Launch Services
    • Insurance
    • Ground Segment (including satellite control centers, mission control centers and other ground based user services)

Please keep in mind that all of this information is based on the publicly available and verifiable information. I will update the numbers below every fiscal quarter as needed and should there be any major changes, developments or other information that requires this information to be updated. Ok,I got that sentence out of the way.


Main Actors in the Space Economy

Nation State/Government Actors

As of late 2017, Nation State/Governmental Actors are the largest constituency in the space economy. These state agencies provide the majority of the funding for the current space economy. The primary activities are:

  • Defense
  • Space Exploration
  • Higher Education/Research Institutes
  • International Space Stations (United States, Russia and China)
  • Funding New Technologies for Space

State Space Agencies are partnering more often with private companies to develop new technologies, program and missions. This is especially true in the United States and Europe.

Private Companies

The private sector of space work closely in many cases with the state run space agencies but also have a broad range of private endeavors such as:

  • Space Tourism
  • Mars + Other Planet Colonization (In Development)
  • Private Satellite Manufacturing
  • Private Satellite Ownership (Imagery, Asset Tracking, Communications, Internet)
  • Private Rocket Development and Launch Capabilities
  • Asteroid Mining (In Development)

This broad range of private activities is where the majority of the growth in the space economy will come from in the future. The two segments of the space economy which will contribute the most to the growth of the space economy are Colonization and Asteroid Mining. I've written two sections of this site to go further into detail for mining and colonization to give you a comprehensive understanding.

Government Space Budget and the Overall Space Economy

This chart shows the percentage of direct government space budgets as a portion of the overall global space economy.

What are the key segments of the space economy currently?

The space economy is broken into three primary sectors: satellites, launch services and ground services. You will notice that the other segments like asteroid mining, space resources, colonization and fuel because they are not yet in service. As I mentioned earlier on this page, these subjects for the future space economy are overviewed here on this site in their own section. 

The Global Space Economy is roughly $339 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow in 2017. Currently the satellite sector makes up the largest portion of the space economy accounting for the majority of space revenue generation both directly and indirectly. The main segments of the space economy are as follows:

  • Satellite Services $127.7 Billion 
  • Satellite Manufacturing $13.9 Billion 
  • Launch Industry $5.5 Billion 
  • Ground Equipment $113.4 Billion 

 

Break Down of the Space Economy 2016

Governmental and Private Expenditures Combined

Growth of the Space Economy 2012 to 2016

All figures are global and in billions of dollars.
 

The Satellite Sector 

The satellite sector was relatively stagnant with roughly 0% percent growth over the past year. Satellites experienced a variety of issues in securing reliable launch solution in 2016 but there issues are anticipated to be fully resolved in 2017. I would add a more current update on this but the public information on these launches relative to previous years is not updated throughout the year. At the same time, the numbers of satellites in space has increased 53% since 2012 from 994 to ~1,459 satellites in space. 

So now you might be asking yourself, what do all of these satellites in space do exactly? Below you will find a clear breakdown of the current makeup of the satellites in space and what their primary functions are. Some classified satellites are not included simply because they are not listed on any publically available information.

Satellites By Function

Roughly 40% of all the satellites which are currently in space belong to the United States Government or United States Registered companies. The remainder of the satellites are spread out between Russia, China, the European Union. Approximately 59 countries have satellites in space although some countries share the same satellites.