The state of the global aerospace industry

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A new European analysis of the global aerospace industry suggests it is both growing and changing significantly.

Several takeaways that indicate future trends.

  • The government space spending has been stable the past 5 years, there was a 2% drop in 2016
  • The number of nations spending money on space has grown significantly in the past decade, from 47 to 70
  • Spending is shifting from military to civilian efforts
  • Russia experienced a 25% cut in aerospace spending in 2016
  • China passed Russia in spending in 2016
  • U.S. government spending stabilized in 2016 after a 25% decline since 2010

A drop in government spending in space is not proof that the industry is shrinking. In fact, it might be a sign of robust growth, in that it is no longer necessary to depend on coerced tax dollars to finance space projects. Instead, it suggests that because there are increasing profits to be made in space, the government is being replaced by a vibrant private sector. It also suggests that the private sector is finding ways to do things cheaper, which is saving the government money and allowing it to lower its budgets.

The second bullet point above reinforces these conclusions. Even though overall government spending has been stable, more countries have entered the market. More is being done with the same amount of money, and these lower costs are allowing new players to participate. The last bullet point also supports these conclusions. Even though the report notes a significant drop in U.S. government spending on space since 2010, it is very clear to me that the industry has actually prospered in these same years, fueled by a growing private sector.



  • wayne

    Don Boudreaux, Michael Munger, and Russ Roberts discuss ‘Emergent Order’
    Econtalk 6-12-17

  • Edward

    Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne and winner of Peter Diamandis’s X-Prize, is not happy about the state of the private space tourism business.

    From the Space News article: “So what happened? Perhaps Rutan was wrong: simply because he was able to fly a suborbital spacecraft didn’t mean anyone else could do it as well. He had his significant technical expertise coupled with the financial backing of Paul Allen. Moreover, SpaceShipOne was focused on the specific goal of winning the X Prize, rather than entering regular commercial service. SpaceShipOne never flew again after winning the X Prize in October 2004, nor has any other crewed suborbital spacecraft.

    I would have never believed in 2004 that, by 2017, we would not be taking private people to space,” — Peter Diamandis, from the Space News article

  • Edward

    [E]ntrepreneurship itself is very hard and space entrepreneurship is orders of magnitude harder because you have all the complexities of space itself and you have all the unusual market dynamics of the space industry.

    It seems to be especially difficult to get a space startup started up. However, “If we really are going to explore space as a species, we need massive innovation around life support, food production and materials. The amount of innovation needed is beyond the capacity of a small collective of innovators. We need a large collection of innovators.

    My expectation is that as new companies get started in the space business, it will eventually get easier to start them, as the unusual challenges will be better known and documented by those who have failed before and who are succeeding today. Success breeds success, and it encourages venture capitalists.

    [Co-founder and chief executive of the Founder Institute, Adeo] Ressi credits people like [Planet co-founder and chief executive, Will] Marshall and [SpaceX’s Elon] Musk with helping to show the world that entrepreneurs can create viable entrepreneurial space businesses.

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