Earth observation satellites circle the globe collecting images and information about the Earth. This information can be valuable for a wide array of applications such as fishing, mining, and weather forecasting. Some companies in this sector sell satellite observations and imagery directly, as individual products or as a more continuous downlink, while others focus on the sale of value-added products and services or big data analyses derived from the satellite data.
Operating in the space sector involves risks. Space launch is complex and launch failures are possible, even for well-established vehicles. New vehicles typically carry even greater risk. Once spacecraft successfully reach orbit, issues may arise due to factors such as space weather, space debris and a crowded orbital environment. To deal with these risks, many companies in the space sector invest in space insurance. As of 2023, there were about 25 direct space insurance companies worldwide.
Based on global economic factors, Space Foundation forecasts that growth will slow slightly in 2023 to 6% before picking up for an average five-year growth of 7%. Under these conditions, the space economy would total $772 billion in 2027. This forecast incorporates existing markets in the space economy and does not predict any future disruptive technologies that could have extraordinary growth over the coming years.
Orbital launch attempts have more than tripled since a lull in activity in the early 2000s bottomed out at 55 attempts in 2004. Part of the rapid growth in the past few years is due to a sharp increase in launch vehicle operators after a long period with an average just shy of 10 distinct operators per year.
In 2022, NASA was named the best place to work in the federal government among large agencies for the 10th year in a row. NASA attributed this “decade of excellence” to the agency’s continuing dedication to supporting and strengthening its workforce.
Employment at U.S. private sector space companies grew nearly 2% from 2021 to 2022, reaching 155,973 people in five employment classifications, based on preliminary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues a consistent pattern of growth since 2016.
For many years, NASA has been working to manage the aging of its workforce. As of the beginning of FY 2023, 23% of the NASA workforce was eligible for retirement.
The private space sector has grown more than 18% over the past five years and proved to be resilient to the negative effects on total U.S. employment associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
“Space education, research, and workforce development in the public and private sectors are core components of the U.S. national interest, with the potential to drive exploration and scientific discovery, to find new solutions for pressing challenges, including climate change, to strengthen American national security, and to provide good-paying jobs for Americans,” the roadmap document states.