February 6, 2020

BEA has launched a research project to measure the multibillion-dollar U.S. space economy, such as satellites, rocket launches, and benefits like GPS navigation here on Earth.

The goal is to create a prototype set of statistics showing the space sector’s impact on the national economy. We are researching how to measure both public programs and private endeavors, with emphasis on capturing the value of the expanding commercial space segment.

Why should the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis measure the space economy? To produce data that will aid space companies and other businesses, NASA and other federal agencies, policymakers, investors, researchers, and the public.

The new statistics on the space sector’s size, growth, and employment would be consistent with BEA’s core economic measures, such as industry data and the nation’s gross domestic product, or GDP. That means they could be used to compare the space sector to other U.S. industries and the economy overall.

The proposed Space Economy Satellite Account would resemble other BEA satellite accounts, which supplement our core statistics with more-detailed economic data on, for example, health care or outdoor recreation.

Of course, this satellite account would be about actual satellites – as well as other space-related goods and services and research, development, and exploration. Determining the exact definitions to use for the “space economy” and “commercial space" is the first, critical step.

To begin developing definitions, methodology, and source data, BEA will draw on expertise from several government agencies and private industry. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s measurement of the global space economy provides a useful starting point.

In addition to estimating the space economy’s impact on GDP, we will seek to measure the contributions of industries such as construction and manufacturing to the space economy and to develop data on gross output, compensation, and employment by industry.

We are working toward a goal of releasing prototype space economy statistics around the end of the year. After that, we may produce additional space statistics, depending on the availability of resources. Learn more in the space economy article in the December 2019 issue of the Survey of Current Business.