Euroconsult recently released its “Profiles of Government Space Programs” which showed a decline in global budgets for the space program from $72.9 billion in 2012 to $72.1 billion in 2013, the first such decline such 1995. In addition, the report noted that U.S. spending had decreased $8.8 billion since 2009.
Via Satellite recently ran a story about this report that revealed that the current budget and procurement climate is driving these numbers. However, there are many variables to consider and this story is more nuanced that it would appear on the surface.
First, total global spending on space programs is essentially flat, down 1 percent, which is not a significant drop. Although the 18 percent decrease in U.S. spending is a bit more alarming, it has been offset by spending in other countries. The article pointed out that Russia increased its public investment in 2013 at $11 billion and a 32 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the last five years.
In addition, the decline in U.S. government spending is partially due to the cancellation of major government-owned constellations – not from cutbacks in the leasing of commercial bandwidth.
For industry members, the shift in government spending to hosted payloads and other longer-term commercial programs is also beneficial, with commercial providers filling in the gaps on current mission needs. For example, NASA’s CATALYST Commercial Lunar Lander initiative is a viable program that creates long-term opportunities for industry members.
The article also highlighted insights from Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General, which focused on how, despite the budget cuts, there are many programs that indicate a more positive outlook for commercial providers in the U.S. These include the Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) Request for Proposals (RFP), the Pathfinder Request for Information (RFI), and the recent Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP) award.
While the budget reality is here to stay, there are still plenty of opportunities for commercial providers, both in the U.S. and internationally. The leasing of commercial bandwidth and other private-public space programs will continue to drive business growth, as well as continually support government mission needs.