New data reveal US space economy’s output is shrinking | Space


This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Jay L. Zagorsky is an economist at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.

The space industry has changed dramatically since the Apollo program put men on the moon in the late 1960s.

Today, over 50 years later, private companies are sending tourists to the edge of space and building lunar landers. NASA is bringing together 27 countries to peacefully explore the moon and beyond, and it is using the James Webb Space Telescope to peer back in time. Private companies are playing a much larger role in space than they ever have before, though NASA and other government interests continue to drive scientific advances.

I’m a macroeconomist who’s interested in understanding how these space-related innovations and the growing role of private industry have affected the economy. Recently, the U.S. government started tracking the space economy’s size. These data can tell us the size of the space-related industry, whether its outputs come mainly from government or private enterprise, and how they have been growing relative to the economy at large.

Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic made up over 80% of the U.S. space economy in 2021. The government held a 19% share of space spending, up from 16% in 2012 – mostly thanks to an increase in military spending.

Related: NASA working to get private space stations up and running before ISS retires in 2030

Ways to measure the space economy

There are many ways to measure economic success in space.

One way is the economic impact. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which tracks the nation’s gross domestic product and other indicators, recently began to monitor the space economy and published figures from 2012 to 2021. The Bureau of Economic Analysis calculated the impact of space using both broad and narrow definitions.

The broad definition …

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