A newly released report from the Space Foundation says the worldwide “space economy” grew 9 percent to $330 billion last year.
“After years of steady, respectable growth, the space industry appears to be on the cusp of a new era of rapid expansion in both capabilities and customers,” the nonprofit group researchers said.
More than three-fourths of the space economic sector involves commercial enterprises such as space manufacturing and satellite operations, while the balance is composed of governmental-based research and development.
The U.S. government’s space spending rose almost 3 percent in 2014, though it still accounted for just 1.2 percent of the national budget, according to the Space Report: 2015.
NASA’s budget, which grew 4.6 percent over 2013, represented 22 percent of what governments around the world invested in space in 2014.
Much of the growth in the space sector was driven by GPS products and services, which marked an 18 percent revenue increase for commercial space infrastructure and support industries. “Satellite-provided imagery became more affordable in 2014 and nearly ubiquitous on every mobile device,” the report said.
“Billions of people use satellite-augmented devices in their lives, whether the cheapest tablet or the most upscale smartphone.”
Still, the overall value of satellite launches dipped almost 14 percent in aggregate last year, including a notable decrease in military satellite launches.
There were 23 orbital space launch vehicles launched from the U.S. in 2014, four more than the year before, while Russia led the worldwide launch sweepstakes with 32 (the same as in 2013).
The U.S. space work force dipped 14 percent from 2006 to 2013, the last year for which data were available, according to the report. But wages remained strong in the sector with an average annual salary was $108,000 for a U.S. civilian space employee in 2013. The study said the U.S. civil space workforce continued to skew older in 2014 while getting smaller.
NASA began its current fiscal year with 17,731 employees, 1,000 fewer than five years earlier.
In Europe, six countries account for 90 percent of Europe’s space work force. France, Germany and Spain have marked employment growth during the past 10 years, while work forces contracted elsewhere.
Founded in 1983, the Space Foundation describes itself as “the foremost advocate for all sectors of space, and is a global, nonprofit leader in space awareness activities, educational programs and major industry events.”