Interactive Tables and Charts
Commercial human spaceflight revenues were estimated at $0.5 billion in 2022, which is reflected in this chart on human spaceflight.
The accidental detonation of a rocket in space caused the biggest debris event of NASA’s early efforts, with a Thor Ablestar upper stage exploding into more than 300 pieces in 1961. The danger of debris dawned on NASA after the explosion.
If LEO is the wild West, Victor Gardner, president of the space situational awareness firm LeoLabs Federal, is the new sheriff in town, and he’s packing a global network of radar stations rather than a six-shooter.
The Russians started it with pieces of Sputnik in 1957. America followed suit, and China is catching up in congesting low Earth orbit with clouds of debris that whiz around the planet at nearly 18,000 mph. Now, as low Earth orbit grows as a destination for massive constellations of satellites to deliver services from weather forecasts to phone calls, along with crewed commercial space stations, nations are racing to ban space-based littering and invent methods to take out the orbiting trash.
The European Space Agency (ESA), like NASA, is also using high-tech computer models to predict how these much more powerful rockets will behave. Learning on the fly with massive rocket boosters is a costly proposition.
The second half of 2023 began with the launch of the European Space Agency’s Euclid telescope, designed to probe the universe’s dark matter. And several groundbreaking civil space missions remain on tap for the year.
The failures pale in comparison to the successes, with a record 55 commercial launches through the midyear point. The first half of 2023 also set a midyear mark for military launches with 19 worldwide, exceeding the record of 17 set in the first half of 2018. Civil government launches were down slightly, with 23 launches in the first half of 2023, compared to 26 in the first half of 2022.
The first half of 2023 saw 97 launches worldwide, setting a record pace despite delays for major rocket programs that pushed the debuts of two major launch vehicles later into the year and notable failures on launch for SpaceX’s Starship in America and Mitsubishi’s H3 in Japan.
Two of the top three launch operators — CNSA and SpaceX — have contributed to overall launch activity growth by exponentially increasing their pace, while the third — Roscosmos — decreased its annual launches by 42% from 2000 to 2022.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation and the Office of Spaceports have growing data supporting the rising pace of launches and the current strain on U.S. launch capacity.