Spaceflight Insider

Space sector stable but still dwarfed by the aviation sector: AIA Vice President

Front page of the “2017 Facts & Figures” report.

The front page of the “2017 Facts & Figures” report. Image Credit: AIA

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), a trade association representing leading aerospace and defense (A&D) companies in the U.S., has recently published its report entitled “2017 Facts & Figures”, which reveals key numbers about A&D industry’s economic impact. Among other things, the summary highlights the condition of the space systems sector as part of the A&D industry.

According to the document, in 2016, the U.S. A&D industry supported 2.4 million American jobs. By industry group, employment for 2016 accounted for the following: 547,900 for aeronautics/aircraft, 79,000 for space systems, 140,900 for land and sea systems, and 77,700 for cyber.

“Based on the employment numbers, you can see that the nearly 80,000 people employed in the space sector are much smaller than the number of employees in aviation – which shows that space, while important and stable, is still dwarfed by the aviation sector,” Frank Slazer, Vice President for Space Systems at AIA told SpaceFlight Insider.

Employment trends in space systems sector.

Employment trends in space systems sector – the number of jobs in recent years (in thousands). Image Credit: AIA

Employment in the space systems sector has been stable during recent years as since 2011 the number of jobs in this segment fluctuates between 79,000 and 80,800.

However, sales in this sector remained stagnant. In 2016, space systems generated $40.4 billion out of $450.1 billion overall attributed to A&D firms producing end-use goods and services. This value has not exceeded $42.2 since 2010.

“Total U.S. government spending on space is about 12 percent of the global space market of $335 billion in 2015 – much of which is tied to commercial services from space,” Slazer said.

“What is also noteworthy, commercial space is far more than just the new space market entrants such as Blue Origin and SpaceX that tend to get a lot of media attention. AIA member companies sell billions of dollars of satellites and launch services annually to commercial customers and have for many years,” he added.

Slazer also noted that, while these might be government space programs, the work being done is performed by commercial contractors.

“In fact, typically, over 80 percent of NASA’s budget is spent through industry contracts,” he noted.

In general, the A&D industry generated approximately last year $872 billion in sales and reduced the U.S. trade deficit by a record $90.3 billion – the highest of any U.S. industry sector.

The report also underlines the significant growth of government research and development (R&D) spending relevant to A&D. In 2016, it grew by 7.5 percent to $84.7 billion.

R&D spending from the Department of Defense (DoD) accounted for 84 percent ($71.5 billion) of the total, while R&D spending from NASA accounted for the remaining 16 percent ($13.3 billion).

AIA was founded in 1919 by many of aviation’s early pioneers including Orville Wright and the organization regularly publishes reports on topics related to the A&D industry since 1922.



Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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