Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983 for the global space ecosystem, has released The Space Report 2022 Q1, which examines key US space employment data and workforce issues, the field of new launch vehicles expected to debut this year, and other industry economic indicators such as insurance premiums and US spaceport capacity.
In a three-part analysis, the Q1 edition focuses on US workforce data, the concern among space industry leaders and educators about the supply of skilled workers, and a Space Foundation program that exemplifies efforts to spur students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“One thing business leaders and educators readily agree on is that if we are to have sustained growth in the space industry, we must have an uninterrupted pipeline of talent,” said Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor. “The jobs available in the global space ecosystem are becoming more varied and increasingly technical in nature and are destined to help create new products and services both in space and on Earth. If we are to realize that growing potential, we must have the talent pool to get us there.”
The Q1 edition continues more than a decade of reporting by The Space Report on the space workforce, focusing in this edition on 2021 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and core space employment numbers. According to preliminary 2021 data, employment in the core US space industry employment is at a 10-year high, climbing past 2011’s core employment of 149,818 to reach 151,797. In the last five years, US employment in the core sectors has grown 18.4%, driven largely by employment in the launch vehicle job sector. These numbers do not track space employment as a whole because of the lack of comprehensive annual data. Instead, annual employment data on key job sectors most closely associated with the space industry is tracked to provide the most consistent growth analysis over time.
Since 2016, core US space employment has grown by 18.4%
Private-sector space pay grew 29.4% in 2020, more than double average US private-sector pay
2-year US college programs are seeing a 4-year enrollment decline for engineering technicians, precision production and other skilled trades
15 new launch vehicles are scheduled to debut in 2022
The workforce section also updates information on pay in the space sector. In 2020, the latest available year for annual data, the average US private-sector space salary was $125,214, according to BLS data, which was more than double the average annual salary of $62,247 for all US private-sector jobs and 27.3% more than the average salary of $98,340 for STEM occupations. Job growth and higher-paying salaries, however, aren’t doing enough to attract workers into the skilled labor jobs that support some crucial jobs in the space industry. Enrollment at two-year US institutions has declined steadily since 2018 in fields such as engineering and science technicians, engineering, and precision production.
The Q1 edition also offers an overview of the 15 launch vehicles expected to debut this year, making it the busiest debut year in space history. The United States leads the class of 2022 with five new launch vehicles, and four of them provide the highest payload capabilities, ranging from 30 to 110 tons. A sixth US company, Blue Origin, announced in late March that it was pushing the launch of its New Glenn to 2023. China is next with three new launch vehicles, followed by the United Kingdom with two new vehicles.
The Q1 edition also examines the climbing rate of launches at US spaceports. Last year, they experienced the busiest year since 1967, helping set a 2021 record of 145 global launch attempts by contributing 45 launches. That increasing rate comes with usage limitations. Of the 13 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-licensed launch sites in the US, only four are operational and licensed for vertical, orbital launches. Two of these launch sites — Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg — account for 97% of all domestic orbital launches since 1957. In this article, Quilty Analytics examines how some spaceport development faces congressional spending limits and update some of the new development in progress.
An often-overlooked aspect of the space economy and infrastructure gets a look in the Q1 edition, too. Coming off the best year for the space insurance industry since 2016, insurers are bullish on the future with an anticipated boom in satellite and launch policies ahead. Increasing congestion and debris in low Earth orbit could add risk, driving some concerns. However, insurers are beginning to navigate what policies and premiums could be as more tourists head into orbit and firms begin construction on the first commercial space stations.