When it comes to space spending, Australia remains a minnow among whales, but Australia’s space budget is on the rise. And so is everyone else.
A survey of global space budgets by Euroconsult shows global government space budgets totalled US$70.9 billion in 2018, a five-year compound annual growth rate of 5.7 per cent.
The Euroconsult Government Space Programs 2019 report said that growth continues the years of recovery since the recent low of US$62.5 billion in 2015, the lowest figure since 2007.
The study shows the biggest spender by far remains the US, with US$41 billion, followed by China (US$5.83 billion), Russia (US$4.17 billion), France (US$3.16 billion), Japan (US$3.06 billion), Germany (US$2.15 billion) and the European Union (US$2.12 billion).
Australian space spending is listed at US$272 million, which is more than most regional neighbours but less than South Korea (US$593 million), India (US$1.49 billion) and UAE (US$383 million).
In an opinion piece published on SpaceNews, Euroconsult senior consultant Simon Seminari said the number of countries investing in space continued to rise, with a record 88 in 2018.
“A decade ago, the number was slightly more than half of this, demonstrating that governments consider space as a valuable investment to support their national socio-economic, strategic and technological development,” he said.
“In 2018 alone, five new space agencies were launched, including Luxembourg, Australia, Zimbabwe, Greece and Portugal.”
The growing number of countries investing in space indicates that governments recognise that space assets bring socio-economic benefits to a country. However, a new rationale is also beginning to take hold: one of a country wishing to secure for itself a part of the growing commercial revenues generated by the space industry, valued at US$271 billion in 2017 by Euroconsult.
Seminari said several countries have launched space agencies with that explicit goal in mind, including Luxembourg, the UK, Australia and the UAE, with these (and many others) having the intention to set up commercially viable space ecosystems as part of their national space policies and strategies.
The study said civil programs are driving the world’s space spending growth, totalling US$44.5 billion in 2018, a 4.3 per cent over 2017.
The US civil space budget, growing at 4 per cent on a five-year compound annual growth rate (5Y CAGR), propelled by the expansion of its space science, technology and human spaceflight programs, is a main force behind the global growth.
Civil space spending in Asia, the Middle East and Africa are also contributing to world growth.
Global space defence budgets totalled US$26.4 billion in 2018, an 8.3 per cent over 2017.
The US defence budgets represents almost there-quarters of the world total in 2018, although down from 81 per cent a decade ago as more countries invest in military space programs.
“Looking forward, over the next decade, world space budgets are forecast to continue their growth trend in the medium term, peaking at an estimated $84.6 billion by 2024 before downcycling to the end of the decade,” Seminari said.
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