Report: Governments Spend Record $92B on Space in 2021

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its left Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast. This is one still frame from a sequence captured by the camera while taking video. This image was acquired on Apr. 22, 2021.
Perseverance snaps a pic of Ingenuity’s second flight. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS.

Despite the pandemic and an uncertain macroeconomic backdrop, 2021 was a banner year for government space spending. Total investment topped $92B, according to Euroconsult’s latest Government Space Programs report. That’s an 8% annual jump over 2020, though with today’s inflation, who knows what the real increase really was…

Civil vs. military breakdown: Civilian space programs received a cumulative $53B in 2021 last year, while military budgets totaled $39B. While the latter represented ~42%, the military share of government space spend is increasing, Euroconsult reports. 

Catalysts for investment? Euroconsult highlights two primary drivers: 

  1. A widened scope of ambition for space exploration programs, from the moon to Mars. 
  2. Geopolitical rivalries that are spilling over into space, as great powers increasingly militarize the domain.
World government expenditures for space programs in 2021 totaled $92.4 billion. The US led with roughly $54.6 billion in government and military space spending. Graphic via Euroconsult.

Narrative violation? Despite rhetoric about a rising threat from its space rivals, at ~$54.6B, the US outspent China by over 5X and Russia by 15X. US-allied countries also represent a large share of total investment. To be fair, the hardest data to obtain (or truly know) is spending on classified military/intelligence satellites, orbital weapons under development, etc…

Some highlights…The robotic population density of Mars, from rovers to helicopters to orbiters, is growing. China launched a space station and sent taikonauts to it. JWST had a buzzer-beater, picture-perfect Christmas launch. And plenty of other space programs put new scientific payloads into orbit. 

  • And…lowlights? The increased congestion of LEO, proliferation of debris, Russia’s ASAT test, and other episodes of in-space saber rattling. 

Looking forward: Euroconsult forecasts that governments will spend $1 trillion on space over this decade, with total investment expected to top $100B per annum around 2025.

Government space budgets, 1990-2021 (in US $ millions). Breakdown by total, defense, and civil. Graphic via Euroconsult.