Number of Worldwide Space Agencies on the Rise
Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang waves from outside his Shenzhou 7 spacecraft September 27, 2008. He became his country's first spacewalker.
Credit: China National Space Administration

The number of nations with national space agencies has continued a sharp climb after a pause in the 1990s, rising from 40 in 2000 to about 55 in 2009, according to a survey by Paris-based Euroconsult.

Some of these nations' space endeavors remain fragile, one or two projects often focused on small Earth-observation satellites. Euroconsult suggests it is too early to determine whether these new organizations will receive the government funding needed to establish themselves permanently.

In its survey "Profiles of Government Space Programs: Analysis of 60 Countries & Agencies," Euroconsult says that globally, civil government space spending increased by 9 percent in 2009 in U.S. dollar terms, reaching $36 billion.

Growth was faster for the military space sector, with governments in 2009 increasing their spending to $32 billion, a 12 percent increase over 2008.

Separating civil from military programs is no small task, especially in nations that use military personnel for civil space efforts or specialize in dual-use systems that are sometimes funded from what are ostensibly nonmilitary institutions.

Similarly, setting a dollar value on the work of an aerospace engineer in Russia, India or China, for example, often results in analyses that seem detached from the reality of a given nation's known space effort.

To say the United States remains the dominant player in space investment in dollar terms is an understatement. Euroconsult set total U.S. civil and military space spending at $48.8 billion in 2009, or nearly 72 percent of the world's total government space outlays that year.

Europe, including the 18-nation European Space Agency and its member governments' separate national budgets, plus a modest military space effort, was next, with a budget estimated at $7.9 billion. Japan's space budget, which is likely to expand under a rewritten space policy, topped $3 billion in 2009.

Euroconsult fixes Russia's 2009 space spending at $2.8 billion, saying the Russian government has increased national space expenditures by 40 percent, on average, for the past five years.

The survey estimates China's space spending, both civil and military, at more than $2 billion, with India's at slightly more than $900 million.