Amid the gloomy reports of meagre budgets and spiralling project costs at NASA, US scientists may find some recompense in the fact that the global space economy is apparently booming. The Space Report 2008, released on Tuesday by the Space Foundation in the US, reveals that over $251bn was spent on worldwide space activity last year.

According to the report, which was compiled using global space budget and revenue data, the total spending for 2007 increased 11% from 2006.

“It shows that overall the space economy is very healthy,” Kendra Horn, a spokesperson for the Space Foundation, told physicsworld.com. “When various other areas are suffering recession, the space economy is continuing to grow.”

One reason for strong economy is commercial sector growth. Digital satellite television, otherwise known as direct-to-home television, and global positioning system (GPS) equipment and chipsets — the two largest segments of the commercial space industry — have grown by 19% and 20%, respectively. Other growth areas include emerging space programmes in Asian counties such as China, which tripled its spending between 2006 and 2007 (although Japan’s spending slipped by 14%).

The report also gives a favourable outlook for those in the US space industry. Employment is growing, and the average wage stands at $88,200 — more than double the broader average private sector wage.