Sunday, February 28, 2010

Over Four Dozen Space Agencies (and Growing?)

"Number of Worldwide Space Agencies on the Rise" (February 25, 2010)

"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...."

Welcome to the 21st century.

I've seen space transportation systems grow from Sputnik, Vanguard, and the dreams of scientists who were still trying to convince (some) teachers that rockets don't need air to push against, to the International Space Station and companies like Blue Origin. It's an exciting era.

And, obviously, quite a few people around the world are paying attention.

I think it makes as much sense for national governments to take an interest in developing a presence in space, as it does for them to want their country to engage in international trade. The military angle? Well, I think it would be nice if everybody would be nice: but that's not gonna happen.

As interesting as governmental involvement is, what I think is most promising is the number of private-sector outfits that are getting involved in spaceliner development.

"Spaceliner development?" If that sounds like something out of science fiction, try this on for size: America now has over a half-dozen spaceports.

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