Japan’s space spending spans seven ministries and totaled ¥612 billion (UD$4.3 billion) in 2023. This budget has grown 68% since 2020 as the nation expands its civil and military space programs. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) — which houses JAXA — typically receives the majority of space-related funding.
Two items stand out as primary examples of astronomers’ concerns: the SpaceX Starlink constellation due to its number of satellites and AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite due to its size — 693 square feet6 — which ranks as the largest commercial communications array in space.
The frenetic pace of launch in 2023 also brought a higher number of launch failures, with 11 rockets failing to make orbit, of them in spectacular fashion.
Commercial launches represented 54% of all 2023 launches. Over the past decade, the number of commercial launches has seen a six-fold increase while military and civil government missions have stayed comparatively flat.
The record number of launches came despite delays that pushed the debuts of several long-anticipated launch vehicles into 2024. It was the third consecutive year to shatter launch records, despite a decline in European and Russian launches.
The number of U.S. launch at- tempts climbed from 87 in 2022 to 116 last year. The number of U.S. launches has more than doubled since 2021, which saw 51 launch attempts.
But every technological leap in clock accuracy can’t overcome the wobbly planet’s ability to throw off timing standards. Using leap seconds, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures has changed clocks to match the astronomical time on Earth 27 times.
The number of satellites in all three mission segments grew by double digits in 2023, with civil government payloads growing most rapidly (74% year-over-year). Over the past four years, the size of all mission segments has more than doubled. Commercial payloads once again made up the largest proportion of deployments in 2023 thanks to mega-constellations such as Starlink.
One problem area for Japan is the possibility of a gap in reliable access to space. The nation is one of 10 capable of orbital launch, but its launch activity is relativity infrequent.
Universities across the globe are building an increasingly large presence in space by attaching student satellite projects to launches. Since the advent of nanosatellites and CubeSats, the barrier to space entry has never been lower for students.