Averaging a liftoff every 33 hours and 49 minutes, January’s 22 successful launches to space marked the busiest start to a year since the Space Age dawned in 1957, and put the globe on track for 259 launches in 2024, which would easily eclipse records set in 2023, according to a Space Foundation database. If the pace holds, this year could shatter 2023’s record of one launch every 39 hours, which sped past a record set in 2022 with a launch every 47 hours. Since 1957, January launches have proven to be a key predictor for annual launch numbers, with annual launch figures meeting or exceeding the January pace 93% of the time.
Rotor damage suffered during a routine Jan. 18 flight grounded the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, after three years exceeding expectations and setting milestones for powered flight on another planet alongside the Perseverance rover, ending the aircraft’s remarkable mission, NASA announced Thursday.
With budget cuts on the horizon and technical hurdles to vault before astronauts return to the Moon, NASA pushed the brakes on its Artemis program launch schedule Tuesday, delaying a planned lunar fly-by mission into 2025 and its planned landing into 2026. The agency cited safety concerns for the delay, including an ongoing investigation into problems with a heatshield, which was damaged when the uncrewed Artemis I capsule re-entered Earth’s atmosphere after a 2022 test flight. The move also comes as congressional negotiators mull slimming the agency’s budget by more than $500 million from its 2023, and $2.2 billion short of NASA’s 2024 budget request.
United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle successfully roared aloft Monday on its maiden flight from Florida, carrying lunar payloads and keeping up a blistering pace of spaceflight that could drive 2024 past annual records for payloads sent to space and launches set in 2023. The first eight days of 2024 have seen four launches from the United States, including three by SpaceX, along with missions to orbit from India and China.
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.
Government space spending in 2022 totaled nearly $119 billion, 8% higher than a revised total of $110 billion in 2021. Annual growth slowed significantly from the previous year, although 2021’s decade-high growth was primarily due to many nations rebounding from spending cuts in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial indications from enacted budget for 2023.
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.
For this year’s analysis, Space Foundation incorporated historical data and 2022 government spending to project the global space economy’s growth over the next five years. Using our methodology, we predict that the total could reach $639 billion by 2026. Our modeling takes a more conservative approach based on average growth of established sectors and does not factor in developing sectors such as lunar habitation or still exploratory concepts such as asteroid mining.