The United States remains the top dog in space, but it is losing its competitive advantage as the nation’s space program undergoes a series of major transitions while other nations, in particular China, improve their space capabilities.
So says Futron’s 2012 Space Competitiveness Index, which was released on Wednesday. It’s the fifth anniversary edition of the report, and the fifth year in a row in which Futron has documented America’s declining lead in space.
What a fun read.
Perhaps to offset that depressingly familiar conclusion, Futron has spiced up the report by adding five emerging space powers to the 10 nations it normally analyzes. The additions include Argentina, Australia, Iran, South Africa and Ukraine. They join the usual suspects: United States, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Canada, India, Brazil, Israel and South Korea.
According to Futron, the index:
- Provides in-depth insight into space-related activity in the top 15 leading space markets: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Ukraine, and the United States.
- Benchmarks space industry data using 50+ metrics and indicators.
- Uses analytical frameworks to understand economic determinants of space competitiveness.
Key findings from the report’s executive summary are reproduced below.
- International collaboration is increasingly taking shape as a concerted space competitiveness strategy, especially among smaller actors.
- Four distinct space competitiveness tiers have emerged. The top two remain dynamic, but have shown some stabilization; meanwhile, the bottom two are subject to especially intense competition, with very small gaps making the difference in competitive rankings.
Overview by Country
- The United States remains the overall leader in space competitiveness, but its relative position has declined for the fifth straight year, as other countries enhance their capabilities while the U.S. undergoes major transitions amid significant uncertainty.
- Russia’s remains the world’s launch leader, and promises to retain that role in the near term thanks to its vital role in transporting astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, as well as the introduction of Soyuz launches from the European spaceport at Kourou. These strengths, however, are offset by weaknesses in retention of human capital talent.
- China performed a record number of launches in 2012, surpassing the United States for the first time, while increasing investment in technical education programs and civilian research institutes.
- Europe’s integrated approach is complemented by the rise of new national space agencies across the continent—from the United Kingdom to the Czech Republic to Estonia—as well as more assertive space export financing.
- Japan, despite ongoing benefits from its policy reforms, is losing competitive ground relative to most other actors, and can benefit from a greater focus on commercializing its industrial base.
- Canada retains a skilled space workforce, but delays in space policy refresh and implementation are significantly offsetting these competitive advantages.
- India is enhancing its space-related technical education, while gradually progressing toward a completely self-reliant set of next generation launch vehicles.
- Ukraine has an enviable space industrial base, but limited domestic demand for its space hardware. It is aggressively seeking partners overseas, but has not yet engaged with key emerging markets.
- South Korea’s two failed launch attempts contributed to an organizational shakeup, but have not reduced its determination to become the newest country to achieve independent spaceflight.
- Brazil has begun to re-examine its national space priorities, increased funding, expanded its partnerships, and laid plans for a new launch vehicle. It remains to be seen whether these steps will keep Brazil ahead of regional counterparts that are also emerging onto the space scene.
- Argentina is adapting its satellite manufacturing sector for the international marketplace, exploring both commercial and government-to-government deals. It stands to benefit from increased investment in spacecraft subcomponents.
- After more than a decade of dormancy, Australia is back. The government is refreshing its national space policy segment-by-segment, focusing on space not only a driver of innovation and expertise, but also for its benefits to Australian society.
- Iran has made faster progress than any other newly emergent space nation. The tenor of Iran’s space program—civilian or military—will hinge on geopolitics. Other international actors have substantial power to influence the future focus of the Iranian space program.
- Israel, despite funding increases, remains challenged by its lack of domestic industry scale, and has difficulty sustaining a commercial space presence in global markets.
- South Africa is divided, from a budgetary standpoint, between space investments focused on societal usage of external assets already in space and investments focused on building the country’s own space industrial base.
Purchasing the Report
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