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Space economy grew to $469 billion in 2021, fastest rate in years: Report

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Space economy grew to $469 billion in 2021, fastest rate in years: Report

People watch the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 3, 2022, from the Canaveral National Seashore. The rocket carries 49 Starlink internet satellites for broadband networks.

Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | Light Rocket | Getty Images

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

According to the report, the total production of rockets, satellites and other fields by governments and companies around the world increased by 9% year-on-year.

While the U.S. market and economy will slow in 2022, Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor told CNBC that the space economy is expected to weather the storm and continue to grow this year.

“Maybe it won’t be this record-breaking number,” Zelibor said, “but the space industry did show quite a bit of resilience.” He pointed to the industry’s growth during the peak of the Covid pandemic.

“I don’t really see a change,” he said.

The Space Foundation is an American non-profit organization founded in 1983 to focus on education and advocacy about the industry.

Zelibor acknowledged that financial activity in the space economy, such as mergers and acquisitions and private investment, slowed in 2022, but stressed that government and business spending remained strong. For example, the report highlights that the commercial space grew to $362 billion last year—space-based products and services such as broadband and GPS continue to generate revenue as a major part of the modern global economy.

Government spending continues to grow, with Zelibor emphasizing that “more than 90 countries now operate in space.”

The United States remains the largest spender, with a total space budget of $60 billion nearly four times that of the second-largest China. In addition, India and several European countries have increased their space spending by 30% or more in 2021, although their budgets are still below $2 billion per year.

Zelibor also highlighted that in the first six months of 2022, 75 rockets have been launched worldwide, matching the record speed set by the United States and the Soviet Union in the race to the moon in 1967. “It’s amazing,” he said.

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

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