Space around the globe

| Article

Historically, just a few countries have played a substantial role in space activity. The United States remains well in the lead for funding, with a civil space budget roughly twice that of the next closest nation and representing more than 40 percent of the worldwide total. But many countries are now upping their level of space activity, and about 70 have established national space agencies. Some of them—including those in the Philippines (2019),1 Costa Rica (2021), and Rwanda (2021)2—are fairly new.3 And with the new Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency (ALCE)4 joining the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), every region of the world is now in on the action. Even more countries are likely to create space agencies in the future.

Twenty nations, spanning four continents—Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America—have estimated civil space spending of more than $100 million each a year. Beyond this group, many countries with smaller space budgets have carved out niche focus areas, and at least 30 of them have recently seen year-over-year budget increases. The interactive map below shows space activity across countries, including budgets and the number of space start-ups and active satellites.

Outside of government, private companies are also increasing their space activity. Although the United States continues to have the most space start-ups, some of the most prominent new companies are located elsewhere. Recently, the US government has even shown that it is open to procuring goods and services from US subsidiaries of foreign space companies.5

As additional nations engage in space activities, international collaboration will become more important, and some attempts have already sprung up. To date, 17 nations have joined the United States in signing the Artemis Accords, intended to “describe a shared vision for principles … to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy.”

McKinsey and the space sector

Learn more about our work in the space sector

Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUS) is endeavoring to “govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity”6 and has cooperated with ESA on the challenge of space debris.7

Countries will need an even greater degree of alignment on the rules of the road in space as challenges intensify and new ones emerge: for instance, the amount of space debris is growing—increasing the likelihood of collisions—and the International Space Station will be decommissioned and other stations launched. In the meantime, continued rapid innovation and progress, combined with the increasing number of nations contributing their resources and talent, will fuel the space sector’s progress and growth.

Explore a career with us