The space economy is operating in a much different context today than in 2019, when the last issue of the OECD’s Space Economy in Figures was released. The world economy, society and geopolitical context are changing in ways that suggest a vastly different future compared to the previous 10-15 years and that have a major bearing on space activities. Those recent changes are altering the shape and intensity of the familiar list of global challenges and are adding new ones to it, such as COVID-19, the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the energy crisis.

Space technologies will play an integral part in tackling these global challenges, building not only on existing capabilities but also on more recent public and private investments. The transformation of the space sector has accelerated in the past five years, driven by the following key developments:

  • Space is increasingly supporting and helping to expand and protect critical infrastructures (transport, water, power, communications) in the face of climate change and extreme environmental events.

  • Significantly lower launch costs are facilitating access to space and contributing to the recent explosive growth in the number of satellites launched. Consequently, global capacity in and coverage of communications, navigation and observation has expanded, greatly enhancing the opportunities for responding to almost every single global challenge through a widening array of public and commercial applications. The population of operational satellites in orbit has grown from about 3 300 satellites at the end of 2020 to more than 6 700 in 2022, stimulated by the deployment of commercial satellite broadband constellations in low-earth orbit.

  • Ever more actors involved in space activities – countries, governments, businesses and citizens – are helping to improve response capacity locally, regionally, and globally, triggering a huge expansion of satellite connections and end-users.

However, public and private action is required on multiple fronts to ensure a sustainable trajectory of the space economy. That includes ensuring the environmental sustainability of the space sector, maintaining adequate levels of public funding to support essential public systems, and spurring the innovations of tomorrow. It also includes building partnerships across countries to address mutual challenges, developing the right contractual arrangements to benefit both commercial endeavours and public missions and ensuring the effective and safe management of space resources and the space environment.

The chapters in this publication focus on specific aspects of the role of space activities in addressing global challenges and provide new indicators and analysis.

  • Chapter 1 takes stock of overarching trends in space innovation and funding for space programmes and activities that are unfolding, just when their capacities are needed to deal with pressing global challenges, from climate change impacts to natural resources management. It also reviews how the space economy has fared in recent crises and identifies possible game changers.

  • Chapter 2 discusses the fundamental importance of space as a provider of critical data and innovative applications in responding to global challenges.

  • Chapter 3 explores some of the implications of growing competition for access to space and its resources for addressing global challenges.

  • Chapter 4 highlights how the space sector’s exposure to numerous existential vulnerabilities could undermine the effectiveness of its contributions to helping tackle global challenges, while itself becoming the source of new challenges.

  • Finally, the country profiles provide more granular statistics on the state of the space economy in the countries that are members of the OECD Space Forum (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States).

In these challenging times that demand ever-more international co-operation, the OECD Space Forum will continue assisting governments, space-related agencies, and the private sector in better identifying the statistical contours of the space sector, while investigating the economic significance of space infrastructure and its role in the broader economy, as well as the contribution of the space sector and space technologies to address global challenges.

Legal and rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2023

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at