Is U.S. Losing Ground In Space?

No, according to Futron Space Competitiveness Index. The U.S. remains top ranked among 10 nations in space competitiveness for 2011, but it is losing ground to global competitors as its space policy undergoes a major transition, especially in the area of human spaceflight. The U.S. is perched atop a list that includes Europe, Russia, China, […]

No, according to Futron Space Competitiveness Index.

The U.S. remains top ranked among 10 nations in space competitiveness for 2011, but it is losing ground to global competitors as its space policy undergoes a major transition, especially in the area of human spaceflight.

The U.S. is perched atop a list that includes Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India, Canada, South Korea, Israel and Brazil, reports the Bethesda, Md., consultancy this week in its fourth annual ranking study. Futron examined 50 metrics in making the rankings, including a trio of overarching indicators: government, human capital and industry.

Of the 10 countries analyzed, only the United States has shown four straight years of competitiveness declines. By contrast, Russia, China and Japan have improved their own space competitiveness by 12%, 27% and 45%, respectively, over their relative starting points from when Futron’s benchmarking process began in 2008.

Chinese gains are coming at the expense of the U.S. The Asian power matched the U.S. in numbers of launches during 2010 for the first time, the index notes.

However, over the past decade (2001-10), Russia led all countries, with 248 orbital launches. The U.S. followed, with 197; next was China, with 70; and Europe, with 63.

During the same period (2001-10), the U.S. produced the most spacecraft, 388; followed by Russia, with 219; Europe, with 188; and China, with 80.

Overall trends studied by Futron reveal that cooperation in space tends to intensify competition.

“Dominant actors are losing ground to a rising middle tier of space players, and the competitive gaps separating all nations are narrowing,” Jay Gullish, Futron Space & Telecommunications Div. director, said in a statement.

The report finds that global space activity drives a substantial economic engine as well as fostering national pride and advancements in science and exploration.

“Moreover, whatever the purpose of space investment, it is enabled by a common denominator: human capital,” according to the 2011 index. “Knowledge, skills and expertise ultimately define the leading edge of space activity. In a world where talent is mobile, the ability to educate, attract, retain and continuously enrich a base of skilled professionals is a growing determinant of which nations and actors lead in space competitiveness.”

In related highlights, the index notes that Japan has strengthened its position relative to almost every other country through policy reforms that link government and industry. Russia’s world-leading launch sector is poised for increased activity as it prepares to begin Soyuz launches from Kourou, French Guiana, while providing essential crew and cargo transportation services to the International Space Station.

China is increasing investments in technical education and civilian research institutes. India is enhancing space-related technical education to pursue future launch objectives.

You can download the full report here.


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