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The Space Economy Grew at Fastest Rate in Years to $469 Billion in 2021, Report Says

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  • The global space economy grew last year at the fastest annual rate since 2014, according to a report by the Space Foundation.
  • Total output by the world's governments and corporations in the realm of rockets, satellites and more expanded by 9% year-over-year, the report found.
  • Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor told CNBC that the space economy is expected to weather market volatility and macroeconomic pressures, and continue growing this year.

The global space economy grew last year at the fastest annual rate since 2014, hitting a record of $469 billion, according to a report by the Space Foundation released Wednesday.

Total output by the world's governments and corporations in the realm of rockets, satellites and more expanded by 9% year-over-year, the report says.

While 2022 has seen a slowdown in U.S. markets and the economy, Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor told CNBC that the space economy is expected to weather the storm and continue growing this year.

"Maybe it won't be this record-breaking number," Zelibor said, "but the space industry has really shown itself to be pretty resilient." He noted the industry's growth during the height of the Covid pandemic.

"I really don't see a change," he said.

The Space Foundation is a U.S. nonprofit founded in 1983, focused on education and advocacy regarding the industry.

Financial activity in the space economy, such as M&A and private investment, has seen a slowdown in 2022, Zelibor acknowledged, but he emphasized that government and commercial spending remain strong. For example, the report highlighted commercial space's growth to $362 billion last year – with space-based products and services such as broadband and GPS generating continued revenue as staples of the modern global economy.

Government spending continues to grow, and Zelibor highlighted that there are "over 90 countries operating in space now."

The United States remains the biggest spender, with its $60 billion total space budget nearly quadruple of the next largest, China. Additionally, India and multiple European countries each increased space spending by 30% or more in 2021, although those countries' budgets remain under $2 billion a year.

Zelibor also emphasized that the first six months of 2022 has seen 75 rocket launches worldwide, matching the record pace set in 1967 by the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the race to the moon. "It's phenomenal," he said.

The report noted that about 90% of the more than 1,000 spacecraft launched this year have been backed by commercial firms — most notably the hundreds of Starlink internet satellites launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

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