Global Space Programs

Most space activities are inherently dual-use. In the U.S., government space programs are separated as either civil or national security; however, space programs in other nations rarely have such distinctions. Many countries carry out military space activities in conjunction with civilian space activities. The information in this segment is focused on the publicly recognized space activities of other nations.


The Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) promotes development of space activities intended to contribute to Algeria’s economic, social and cultural development. ASAL implements the Algerian National Space Programme for 2006-2020, which is reviewed and updated every five years. In 2010, the Algerian remote sensing satellite Alsat-2A was successfully placed into orbit. Alsat-2A was the second remote sensing satellite launched by Algeria; Alsat-1 launched in 2002.


Government programs include the Brazilian space agency, Agencia Espacial Brasileira (AEB) and the Alcântara Space Centre. Brazil’s strategy for space is outlined in its 2005 National Program of Space Activities (PNAE) nine-year plan. Brazil’s stated aim is to develop and use space technology to address its national needs, while contributing to the improvement of its citizens’ quality of life. Brazil also actively participates in international space programs. Beginning in 1988, Brazil and China established an ongoing space relationship centered on the joint China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) program.


Government programs include the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Canadian Center for Remote Sensing and the Canadian Forces. Canada employs a niche strategy, focusing on expertise in three areas: space robotics, radar technology for Earth observation and advanced satellite communications. Budgets focus heavily on space science and Earth observations, as well as human spaceflight. Canada’s space program is uniquely tied to the European Space Agency (ESA) and U.S. civilian and military programs. Canada has a cooperation agreement with ESA, collaborates on many NASA missions and is a contributor to the International Space Station (ISS).


Government spending on space programs and activities in Europe comes from three distinct sources: activities directed by the European Union (EU) and executed by the European Commission (EC); activities by the European Space Agency (ESA); and activities carried out by the European countries independent of both the EU and ESA. The EC focuses its resources on three primary areas: space research, security research and European satellite navigation programs. ESA is the primary space actor in Europe, with 19 member states obligated to contribute a set amount, based on the gross domestic product, for core programs. ESA has focused its efforts on upgrading and developing its launch vehicles, Earth observation activities and space science missions. Voluntary contributions from countries can also be made to other programs, such as human spaceflight, research or telecommunications.


France’s national space agency is the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), which provides partial funding for Arianespace, the commercial entity that manufactures and operates the Ariane launcher. The country’s focus has been on access to space, civil applications of space, sustainable development, science and technology research and security and defense. In 2009, France announced a multiyear strategy to increase funding and utilization of dualuse military and civil space technologies and applications in coordination with other European nations.


The German Aerospace Center (DLR), which carries out research and development work in aeronautics, space, transportation and energy, is Germany’s national space agency. The agency focuses on observing the Earth and universe, research for protecting the environment and development of environmentally friendly technologies to promote mobility, communication and security. Major German space programs have continued to emphasize Earth observation.


Italy’s national space agency is the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), which promotes, coordinates and conducts space activities in Italy, including developing space technology. ASI plays a key role at the European level, where Italy is the third largest contributor country to ESA. In 2010, Italy launched the fourth, and final, satellite in the COSMO-SkyMed Earth-observation satellite constellation. COSMO-SkyMed provides dualuse radar Earth observation data intended to meet civilian and military needs. ASI is leading Europe’s development of the Vega small-class launcher, which is intended to complement the larger Ariane V launcher.

United Kingdom (U.K.)

The U.K. Space Agency (UKSA) was launched in 2010 to replace the British National Space Centre and bring all U.K. civil space activities under one single management. It coordinates U.K. civil space activity, supports academic research, nurtures the U.K. space industry, raises domestic and international awareness of U.K. space activities, works to increase understanding of space science and its practical benefits and inspires the next generation of U.K. scientists and engineers. The U.K. Space Leadership Council provides the UKSA with strategic guidance as it coordinates and promotes U.K. civil space activity in the academic, industrial, scientific and educational arenas.


Government organizations include the China National Space Administration (CNSA), an internal structure of the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The manned spaceflight program is operated by the Chinese Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO), which is within the General Armaments Department (GAD) of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Funding for space is part of military budgets, which are only partially disclosed. China’s goals include facilitating economic development, ensuring self reliance, promoting national prestige and projecting power. Programs focus on manned spaceflight and space applications, such as remote sensing, communications, navigation and space science and technology. In parallel, China has developed capabilities to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by potential adversaries during times of crisis or conflict. The country launched its first astronaut (taikonaut) into Earth orbit in 2003, conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) test in 2007 on its aging weather satellite and performed its first spacewalk in 2008. In 2010, China successfully deployed its second lunar probe, Chang’e-2, to scout possible landing sites for an unmanned Chang’e-3 mission.


India’s government space program is structured around the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which manages civil space programs. India’s space program has generally focused on technological, scientific and social development through space capabilities. Only recently has the country migrated toward programs such as space exploration and military applications. India often emphasizes its strategy of international collaboration with leading space powers and has strengthened its relationships with Europe in its efforts to commercialize its launch capability. India has also worked with Russia to develop its own geostationary launch vehicle, and has successfully launched its own spacecraft to the Moon in 2008.


Iranian space activities are coordinated by the Iranian Space Agency (ISA) and focus on developing communication and remote sensing satellites, launch vehicle technology and astronomy research. In 2009, ISA launched its first research and telecommunication satellite. In 2010, ISA launched living organisms into space onboard its experimental biological capsule.


The Israel Space Agency (ISA) coordinates government space activities and focuses on satellite development for communication and remote sensing. ISA partners with a number of nations on various space activities, including technology development and human spaceflight. ISA developed and operates its own launch vehicle, Shavit.


In 2008, Japan enacted a new Basic Law of Space, allowing the country to use space for military purposes. In addition, the law consolidated space policy oversight into a single cabinet-level office called the Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy (SHSP). As a continued effort to consolidate its space program, Japan merged multiple space research organizations into the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which focuses on launchers, space science, the ISS and space applications. Its space science program includes successful missions to asteroids and the Moon, with follow-on return missions planned. In addition, due to increased regional security concerns, Japan has focused its research and development on a satellite system for national security that will improve its early warning and information gathering capabilities.


Nigeria’s space program is administered through its National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), which consists of six geographically distributed centers that include the Center for Basic Space Science, the Center for Satellite Technology Development, the Center for Geodesy and Geodynamics, the Center for Space Transport and Propulsion, the National Center for Remote Sensing and the Center for Space Science and Technology Education. In recent years, Nigeria has worked with China to develop and launch an Earth-observation satellite. Nigeriasat-2 is the follow on Earth-observation satellite.


Russia’s space program is organized around the federal space agency, Roscosmos, as well as a branch of the armed forces dedicated to all military satellites and launch facilities. The agency focuses on practical applications, such as communications, remote sensing and navigation. Its main priorities include reconstituting aging satellite fleets, space sciences and human spaceflight. Russia continues to be a world leader in commercial launch services, and continues to make investments in launch infrastructure and systems. Russia also continues to allocate funds to support the ISS, including crew and cargo transportation. With the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle, Russia will be solely responsible for the transport of crew to and from the ISS for the foreseeable future.

South Korea

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is South Korea’s space agency. KARI’s objective is to contribute to the development of the national economy and improvement of the public life through aerospace science and technology. In addition to continued development of scientific and remote sensing satellites, Korea’s national space plans include: further work on its new Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV) rocket; participation in international space exploration initiatives including the ISS; a continued astronaut training program; and long-term plans for lunar orbiter and lander spacecraft.


The National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU) is the Ukrainian government agency responsible for space policy and programs. The agency oversees launch vehicle and satellite programs and cooperative international programs, as well as commercial ventures. In 2008, the country approved the Fourth National Space Program of Ukraine for 2008-2012. The program outlines long term national interests, new trends in space development and projects of interest. Ukraine also builds the Zenit, Cyclone and Dnepr launch vehicles.

52 Nations Have Space Interests

Many nations now recognize the strategic value and practical benefits of space assets and are pursuing space capabilities. By the end of 2010, government, commercial or academic organizations in at least 52 nations - including 19 member states of ESA - were operating one or more satellites, or planning to launch a satellite before the end of 2012. Some of those nations include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela and Vietnam.