Space Commerce

Futron Releases 2014 Space Competitiveness Index

By Marc Boucher
May 8, 2014
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Futron Releases 2014 Space Competitiveness Index
Futron Releases 2014 Space Competitive Index

Futron has released its annual Space Competitiveness Index. Highlights this year include that China trailed the United States in orbital launches in 2013 for the first time in two years, yet continues to far outpace other emerging in the speed with which it achieves new space milestones. Yet its commercial space role lags behind, and is beginning to reduce its competitiveness.
Other highlights include:

– The United States remains the leader in space competitiveness, but is the only nation to decline for seven straight years. As other countries enhance their space capabilities while the U.S. undergoes uncertain transitions, it should not view its unique space agenda-setting power as guaranteed.

– Argentina continues to adapt 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.

– Australia’s space re-emergence continues, with the government reviewing national policy segment-by-segment, focusing on the uses of space to Australian society–although momentum may be stalling as Australia pivots from policy formulation to implementation. The Australian private sector is assuming a larger role, including non-traditional entrepreneurial startups.

– Brazil is re-examining its national space priorities, but also reducing its civil space funding. As the global spotlight falls on Brazil in 2014 and 2016, its next space steps are a wide open question.

– Canada has experienced a small bounce in its space competitiveness, and retains a skilled space workforce, but ongoing implementation challenges threaten to offset these advantages.

– Europe’s governance approach is organized enough to mobilize competing national priorities into collective action, yet flexible enough to fluidly accommodate new member states. How well it mediates the fateful question of Europe’s next-generation launch vehicle will be an important test.

– India has raised its game, developing fully indigenous launch vehicles and a mission to Mars.

– Iran has made faster progress than any new space participant since the Cold War, but fairly or unfairly, questions about the tenor of its program–civilian or military– impede collaboration.

– Israel has finally implemented civil space funding increases and published new policies, but lack of industry scale continues to limit its commercial space presence, despite a vibrant startup sector.

– Japan continues to improve thanks to its thorough space policy reforms, and has enjoyed recent commercial progress. Its ability to increase its launch and mission frequency and assertively market its commercial benefits are important to its future competitiveness and regional leadership.

– Russia has surged, largely restoring its launch success rate, remaining vital to ISS resupply, weighing long-term independent space station plans, and developing its new Vostochny Cosmodrome. Yet its annexation of Crimea strains its relationships, and may stall its resurgence.

– South Africa continues to develop its space policy and human capital base, but its technology and industrial base remain negligible despite the important Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project.

– South Korea’s KSLV success has helped bolster its credibility. The key now is to ensure this success does not go unnoticed, but instead build upon it to pursue commercial space goals

– Ukraine has advanced in competitiveness even while suffering turmoil domestically. Yet it struggles to commercialize its space industrial base, and overlooks key emerging markets.

– International collaboration is increasingly taking shape as a concerted competitiveness strategy.

– Four distinct space competitiveness tiers have emerged. The first tier of traditional space leaders is dynamic, but relatively stable. The second tier of Asian space powers is intensely competitive: each country could plausibly surpass its near-peers within a short period of time. The third and fourth tiers are highly diversified: nations with disparate activities can attain similar scores, but for different reasons. And throughout, small gaps in score results can lead to large gaps in rankings.

A critical benefit of the SCI is the ability to track competitiveness trends over time, supported by statistical analysis. Since introducing the SCI in 2008, Futron has identified notable movements among leading space-participant nations, now supported by seven years of tracking data, which are detailed in the 2014 edition of the report. For instance, of the 15 countries analyzed, only the United States has shown seven straight years of competitiveness declines. By contrast, China, Japan, Russia, and India have improved their own space competitiveness by 35%, 44%, 20%, and 16%, respectively, over their own relative starting points from when Futron’s benchmarking process began in 2008.

The SCI also allows direct comparisons between individual nations. The table above offers a preview of relative competitiveness changes. Positive scores (in green) indicate competitiveness gains, while negative scores (in red) indicate competitiveness losses. For instance, Japan gained 0.14 basis points in overall space competitiveness relative to China, while Canada lost 2.31 basis points against Russia.

You can purchase the report on Futron’s website.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.