Space is big, and space business is big business. According to the Space Foundation, the global space economy grew to nearly $447 billion in 2020, with commercial revenue representing $356.68 billion of that total.
The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that in 2018, the U.S. space economy accounted for $177.5 billion of gross output, 0.5 percent ($108.9 billion) of current-dollar GDP, $41.2 billion of private industry compensation, and supported more than 356,000 private sector jobs.
The vast majority of space revenues come from traditional satellite communication services such as telecom backhaul and direct-to-home TV and radio. But recent years have seen a surge of growth and investment in new space markets, including broadband Internet connectivity, Earth imaging, satellite servicing, and space tourism. The surge is fueled by plummeting prices for space access resulting from the commercial sector’s development of reusable/low-cost launch vehicles, ridesharing arrangements, and small satellites with standardized form factors. In 2020, over 1,100 new satellites launched into Earth orbit, and tens of thousands more are coming.
Promoting Market Growth
The National Space Policy of 2020 directs the United States to promote and incentivize private industry to facilitate the creation of new global and domestic markets for U.S. space goods and services, and strengthen and preserve the position of the United States as the global partner of choice for international space commerce.
NOAA and the Department of Commerce support this national goal, with NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce serving as the principal unit for the coordination of space-related issues, programs, and initiatives within the Department. The Office has a statutory mission to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the United States space commerce industry.
Space Safety and Sustainability
With the rapid growth in commercial space activities, the government has a responsibility to ensure the safety and sustainability of the space environment. National policies assign the Department of Commerce with key roles in this regard, including dissemination of space situational awareness information, fostering development of space collision warning measures, regulation of private remote sensing systems, and mission authorization of novel activities.