Annual Infrastructure Overviews
As of March 6, 2019, information was available about 38 nations that deployed and operated 465 spacecraft during 2018. The number of nations operating spacecraft grew 10% from 2017 to 2018, with 75 total nations operating spacecraft. While . . .
Launching people and satellites into orbit, providing directions to tourists, and warning residents on the Pacific Rim of an impending hurricane…all of these activities require infrastructure, the spine of an industry. A bigger space infrastructure can support more activity, such as the number of orbital launches conducted annually. A flexible infrastructure can rapidly adapt to growth or unexpected changes, such as the increased demand for launch services.
Space infrastructure is a fundamental prerequisite for all activities that make use of space. It comprises all the hardware, software, and operators responsible for creating and supporting the construction, launch, and deployment of spacecraft. Recent years have seen a substantial broadening of the parties involved in building infrastructure: new spaceports are being proposed and developed, the number of small satellites has risen dramatically (often operated by startup companies), and launch companies are developing a wide variety of rockets to serve the entire range of spacecraft sizes currently in use. Although it is unlikely that all of the current ventures will prove successful in both a technical and economic sense, there are many reasons to expect that the industry will benefit overall from the new capabilities that flourish in the years to come.
What does it take to deploy a satellite? What is required to command it to point at an area of the Earth, or into the depths of outer space, and then receive useful data from the satellite’s on-board equipment? Space infrastructure ties all space operations together, whether conducted by military, government, commercial, or even volunteer organizations. Rockets rising from the Earth into space; the facilities and spaceports designed to launch specific rocket types; the command and space operations centers full of space professionals monitoring rocket and satellite health while sending out invisible commands; the space stations and capsules carrying astronauts across space, sending streams of data back to Earth; and the satellites of many different nations, silently moving around the Earth and accomplishing amazing feats in our solar system—all of this constitutes space infrastructure.