Worldwide spending on satellites, launches and support services increased to $314 billion in 2013, up 4% from 2012, even though the United States government reduced its own space spending, an industry association reported this week.
Commercial space activity, including rocket launches to fly cargo to the International Space Station, fueled most of the growth, the report by the US Space Foundation said. "Fifty-seven years after the launch of the first satellite, the space industry is rapidly evolving," said the foundation's annual Space Report, released on Monday. "It is clear that space technology continues to become more accessible each year to a wider variety of end-users in an increasing number of countries," it said. "The outlook for the space sector is very bright in the years to come."
Globally, commercial revenues and government spending on space projects totaled $314 billion – $12 billion more than the $302 billion spent in 2012, the report showed. Commercial space products and services, such as communication services via satellite and space-based navigation, increased 7% in 2013 over the previous year.
In all, governments spent 1.7% less in 2013 than they did in 2012, but there were notable exceptions. Canada, India, Russia, South Korea and the United Kingdom, for example, each hiked space spending by 25% or more.
Despite the increased revenue, US employment in the space industry continued its six-year decline, the latest figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed. In 2012, there were 234,173 people employed in the industry, down from 242,724 in 2011.
Meanwhile, Japanese and European industry space employment grew by 11% and 1.5% respectively in 2012.
On the civilian government side, NASA's 18,068-member workforce was essentially unchanged for the 2014 fiscal year that began October 1.
Analysts noted a slight uptick in the number of launches worldwide, with 81 launches in 2013 – three more than in 2012. The five-year average is 79 launches per year. Russia continued to dominate the world launch market, with 36 flights in 2013. The United States, after falling behind China for the past two years, came in a distant second with 19 launches in 2013.
China had 15 launches in 2013 and Europe conducted seven, the report said. In total, those 81 rockets delivered almost two-thirds more satellites into orbit in 2013 than in the previous year.
"This was largely due to a significant uptick in the number of satellites with masses below 200 pounds (91 kg)," the Space Foundation said in a press release. "These micro-satellites constituted more than half of the 197 satellites launched in 2013," the foundation said. "Many of the micro-satellites were short-lived technology demonstrations, but there is a considerable degree of interest in future possibilities for constellations," it added.