The global launch industry in 2023: A record third year in a row of growth, with dark clouds lurking

In 2023 the world saw a continuing rise in the global launch industry. As happened in 2021 and 2022, the record for the most launches in a single year was smashed. In 2023 nations and companies managed to complete more than 200 launches for the first time ever, with the number of launch failures so small you could count them on one hand.

Furthermore, if the predictions by several companies and nations come true, 2024 will be an even greater success. These predictions however all depend on everything continuing as it has, and there are many signs this is not going to be the case. More and more it appears the political world will act to interfere with free world of private enterprise, in some cases intentionally, in others indirectly.

Let us begin by taking a look at 2023.
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In 2022 freedom continues to fuel the launch industry towards new records

With 2022 now half over, we can now get a quick sense of the state of the world’s rocket industry by the number of launches that have so far been accomplished this year.

Last year was the most successful year in rocketry since the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Both nations and private companies managed to launch successfully 134 times, one more than the previous record in 1975. Similarly, with 48 launches in 2021, the U.S. completed the most launches since the height of the 1960s space race, 48 total.

These high numbers last year also suggested that the growth was not a one time thing, but based on a wider sustained growth that would continue.

It now appears that both these records will be smashed in 2022. Below is a graph showing the total number of successful launches year-by-year by the United States since Sputnik, as of June 30, 2022.
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2021: The year that private enterprise took over rocketry

The year that just ended, 2021, was for the field of rocketry the most successful year since the launch of Sputnik in 1957. In a year when the world was still racked by COVID panic and its oppressive restrictions on both private and public life, the global launch industry was able to rack up the most launches ever, successfully completing 134 launches and topping the previous best year, 1975, by one.

The chart below shows all successful launches by every nation in the 21st century. It also shows in the U.S. the breakdown of those launches by private companies.
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The state of the global rocket industry in 2019

With 2019 ending, it is time once again (as I did for 2016, 2017, and 2018) to review the trends in the global launch industry for the past year.

Below is my updated graph, showing the launch numbers for 2019 as well as for every year going back to 1990, just before the fall of the Soviet Union. That range I think covers all recent trends, while also giving some perspective on what happened in 2019.

The graph is worth reviewing at length, as it not only gives a sense of recent trends, it also summarizes well the history of the entire global space industry during the past thirty years. For example, it shows the transition in the U.S. in the past two decades from government-owned launchers to private rockets, a change that has revitalized the American space industry in more ways than can be counted.
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