Space Briefing Book:

Space Sectors

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Space endeavors are grouped into sectors: civil, national security (i.e., defense and intelligence), and commercial. Each sector operates with its own goals and assets, although they all rely on a common space industrial base, workforce, and infrastructure.


Non-defense-related government space activities, including launching and managing satellites, conducting research, and exploring the solar system. In the United States, nearly all civil space missions are managed or run by NASA and NOAA.

National Security

The defense and intelligence sectors are commonly considered together as a “national security” sector. The U.S. Department of Defense oversees space missions in support of military operations, and several agencies in the U.S. intelligence community are involved in operating space assets for intelligence purposes to support military and law enforcement operations.


All space-related endeavors—including goods, services and activities—provided by private sector enterprises with the legal capacity to offer their products to nongovernmental customers. Commercial space efforts range from satellite communication to space tourism.

Minuteman launch abort motor test

A Minuteman launch abort motor test. Credit: Northrop Grumman

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