COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (Reuters) - Boeing Co, which calls itself the world’s leading aerospace company, said on Tuesday the United States was in danger of losing its edge in space to countries like China and India, absent major funding increases.
“The road back to the moon will be paved with commitment, leadership and innovation, and a government willing to step up and fund space innovation at levels that haven’t been seen in decades,” Jim Albaugh, the head of Boeing’s defense arm, told a big space-industry gathering here.
“Today, we have ample warning,” he said, referring to India and China by name. “We can clearly see our international competitors fast approaching in the rear view mirror.”
Since the end of the Cold War and the space race it drove with the old Soviet Union, the United States has spent a declining or flat share of its gross domestic product on space.
U.S. government space spending rose 3.4 percent in 2007 from 2006 while other governments’ jumped nearly 12 percent in dollar terms, according to a report released Tuesday by the private Space Foundation, sponsor of the annual conference here called the National Space Symposium.
Combined U.S. defense-related space activities total $45 billion, or 71 percent of U.S. government space spending, said the Space Report 2008.
No comparable figure was provided for Chinese military space spending. The Space Foundation said it had used a “conservative estimate” of $1.5 billion for Chinese civilian space spending, which compares to the $17.6 billion being sought for NASA in the coming budget year.
Russian space spending rose 49 percent to $1.32 billion in 2007, from a year earlier, driven largely by increased investment in Russia’s GLONASS global navigation satellite system, the survey said.
Overall, the United States accounted for 81 percent of global government space spending, based on available information, said the Space Foundation study.
Albaugh, who heads Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems business arm, said the stakes were great for the United States in commercial, civilian, national security and space exploration areas.
“It’s about our nation’s ability to lead and not to follow,” he said.
Boeing operates the Space Shuttle and International Space Station for NASA and builds satellites for commercial, military and intelligence uses.
In 2007, Integrated Defense Systems accounted for about $32 billion of Boeing’s $66 billion in revenue overall.
Editing by Tim Dobbyn