15. United States

The United States has been at the forefront of spaceflight for more than 60 years. It launched its first satellite (Explorer 1) into orbit in 1958 and has the world’s largest government space programme. US-registered satellites accounted for more than half of all operational satellites in 2022, and the country is home to more than a dozen launch sites. The US government policy to support commercial industry through product and service procurement, as well as a dynamic venture capital landscape, have contributed to the current growth and vitality of the US space sector.

The US institutional space budget for civilian activities amounted to USD 25.7 billion in 2022, comprising the activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Landsat programme of the US Geological Survey; the Commercial Space Transportation Office in the Federal Aviation Administration; as well as activities in the Department of Energy (e.g. power systems), the Department of Agriculture (e.g. smart agriculture, forest fire management) and in the National Science Foundation. In real terms, this represents a 0.3% yearly growth since 2015 (Figure 15.1). Also in 2022, the US Space Force received USD 17.4 billion in government funding, with considerable additional classified space-related intelligence activities conducted in the National Reconnaissance Office and National Geospatial Agency, in addition to classified technology development and acquisition programmes. The overall space budget of the United States for 2022 was conservatively estimated to USD 60 billion, which represents 0.24% of gross domestic product. Key civilian exploration priorities include the Artemis programme, with the first crewed mission to the Moon since 1972 scheduled for 2024, and the deployment of a space station in lunar orbit (the “Gateway), with assembly starting no sooner than 2025. The science programme mainly comprises planetary and earth science (41% and 27% of the science portfolio, respectively), with smaller budgets allocated to astrophysics, heliophysics and the James Webb Space Telescope.

In terms of patent applications, a proxy for innovation activity and capabilities, the United States accounted for 36% of space-related applications worldwide in the period 2016-20, a notable increase by eight percentage points compared with the 2006-10 period, mainly driven by private sector applications (Figure 15.2). “Other applicants” refers to higher education institutions and private individuals.

The US is currently the only country with a thematic account for space activities, allowing it to track the space economy in robust and comparative ways with other parts of the US economy, using the statistical framework of national accounts. According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US space economy employed 360 000 workers and generated USD 211.6 billion in gross output in 2021, including government activities. Downstream information services and associated manufacturing accounted for some 40% of output. US space industry, which covers all segments from R&D to satellite data/signal exploitation and analysis (notably satellite broadband), caters both to a strong domestic government demand (including defence) and international markets. By the end of 2022, seven out of the ten biggest commercial space operators worldwide, in terms of number of satellites, were headquartered in the United States, four of which were founded after 2000 and three after 2010.

Based on data in the OECD Development Assistance Committee Creditor Reporting System database, the United States committed some 75 million constant US dollars in space-related official development assistance over the 2002-21 period, (Figure 15.3), mainly to protect biodiversity and support environmental policy (general environment protection) and promote agricultural policy and forestry education/training (agriculture, forestry, fishing). The main recipient regions were sub-Saharan Africa and Far East Asia. A considerable share of the assistance was not tied to a specific region. Many projects were part of the SERVIR programme, which is a joint initiative of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the United States Agency for International Development and partner organisations, launched in 2004. SERVIR uses earth observation information, earth science and technology to increase awareness, improve access to information and support analysis in more than 50 countries.

OECD indicators for scientific output and excellence (Table 15.2), OECD indicators for scientific production, international co-authorships and citations in space-related scientific journal categories (aerospace engineering; astronomy; atmospheric science; and space and planetary science), show that authors at US-affiliated institutions performed above OECD average in 2021 for citations and outputs across all journal categories, except in atmospheric science. International co-authorships were less frequent in the United States than the OECD average in 2021.


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