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.
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.
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.