China’s Space Budget is Nearly Triple Russia’s Budget But Far Less Than the USA Budget

In 2017, China spent about $8.4 billion on its civilian and military space budget while Russia cut its space program back to $3 billion. The US NASA and Military Space budget is about $48 billion. The US spends about $14 billion on the military space program. There is NASA’s $21.5 billion budget. There is also the National Security Agency space budget.

If China maintained about 6% per year economic growth to 2030 and scaled the space budget in proportion to the overall economy then China would be at about $15 to 20 billion for a 2030 space budget.

Elon Musk and SpaceX developments will prevent China from overtaking the USA in space technology. Russia will continue to shrink in importance as part of what is happening in space.

China has at least four space startups pursuing reusable rocket technology. It is clear that China’s government will provide those startups with financial and other resources to attempt to replicate what SpaceX is doing.

China’s goal is to be a major global space power by around 2030, and China’s primary state-owned space contractor has stated China aims to be a global leader in space equipment and technology by 2045.

China’s overall goals are to become the United States’ peer in space militarily, diplomatically, commercially, and economically. If China continues to meet its declared space goals, it may be the only country to have an active space station after U.S. government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) ends in 2024, and it may begin to establish a research station on the moon by 2025.

China will probably launch, assemble in-orbit, and operate” the China Space Station (CSS) before 2025. The China Space Station is foolishly following the path of the International Space Station as a super-sized version of 1970 Russian Soyuz and US SkyLab space stations.

According to the China Manned Space Agency, the initial CSS will weigh approximately 66 tons, or about one-seventh the mass of the ISS, and it will have a number of payload racks available for use by foreign partners. The CSS, planned to initially comprise a core module plus two experimental modules, will accommodate three to six taikonauts for up to three- to six-month intervals and will have a service life of at least ten years. Tianhe-1, the 20 metric ton core module of the CSS, is currently scheduled to launch in 2020 on an LM-5B.69 Two science modules are scheduled to launch by the end of 2022, completing the station, and the CSS will have the potential for further expansion. Yang Hong, chief designer of the CSS, said in October 2018 the CSS could accommodate up to three additional modules, eventually increasing its total mass to 160–180 metric tons.

29 thoughts on “China’s Space Budget is Nearly Triple Russia’s Budget But Far Less Than the USA Budget”

  1. Well yes, I was using “piggybacking” more as a euphemism for what was happening when they said “squeal like a pig” in the movie, Deliverance.

  2. Pension costs are large because the population is large. It may be inconvienent to not have a growing population, but it reduces the future economic and material burden. Giant or growing population is not an asset, because we don’t spend our days threshing rice by hand. Machines and automation create wealth, not hungry mouths. How many of those 1.4 billion are inventing the future?

  3. I still don’t trust the numbers, and assume that although we are more transparent than Red China, there is plenty of hidden money. I also think that the US military space budget should be termed “space” budget, since most of it goes to USAF. I assume some is being siphoned off to Skunk Works,

  4. How would the US military budget be much higher than advertised? It’s already a sizable chunk of the GDP, and a very sizable chunk of the total government budget (though not the majority as the low information voters appear to think).

    But to make the military budget “much higher” means getting money from somewhere. Somewhere that won’t notice it missing. That’s a huge number to just find behind the sofa cushions.

  5. I am skeptical about those numbers.
    First- how much of our civilian budget is diplomacy and eco-extortion, rather than rocket science.
    Second- I think the China budget is much higher than advertised.
    Third- I think that our military budget is much higher than advertised.
    It’s not breaking any banks, but will make it harder to hide secret pork projects when the cheddar becomes more scarce, and if citizens feel that they are being cheated it starts to get dicey for pols. China really needs to keep those pensions funded, or else it will need to vent the people’s anger to an external enemy. If citizens are hungry, and the children are suffering, a couple of bad launches would be all that it would take to make them turn.
    Same for us when budgets keep ballooning. If your kids graduate and can’t find work, and are unable to leave home to fulfil their dreams, Americans will no longer find a space program very exciting. They want prosperity.
    If the economy takes a downturn, and Artemis 1 crashes on the pad- that may be the end of it all for a couple of generations. Thankfully, we will still have commercial. They will eventually push out. It will happen alot faster with government support, though. Musk will never build nuclear generators or engines. Maybe a Russian or Chinese outfit will.

  6. It scares me to ponder what China may do if and when it realizes it is in decline and becomes desperate. Nationalism is a very dangerous tool, when wielded by despots.

  7. I think we will find killer apps for the constellation. Musk built the company (reportedly) after Russian quotes were unreasonable. All he needs to do is break even to win. My money is on continuous cashflow from Starlink. I just think this is a good idea to make money.
    I will be proven either right or wrong, but if it were to go public, and I had the cash, I would buy.

  8. Agreed, except I would say they piggyback off of the Russians, with America it is more like theft.

    Despite the some inefficiencies, no one does what NASA does and the Chinese exploration goals don’t even match what NASA does.

  9. That would be towards the end of this century.

    The modern-nation state really didn’t emerge until the end of the Thirty Years War, in 1648.

    I expect that changes by then in things like man-machine interfaces, human augmentation, gene-engineering, vastly extended lifespans, synthetic intelligence (strong AI), off-planet resource extraction, full automation, and cheap energy, along with many other things, will change the political landscape in ways that we cannot yet even fathom, but which will make the concept of 20th century superpowers, and even traditional nation-states, seem rather quaint.

  10. Assuming all that works out by 2030 (I have my doubts) there is still the following.

    Per Reuters this past January:

    China’s population is set to reach a peak of 1.442 billion in 2029 and start a long period of “unstoppable” decline in 2030, government scholars said in a research report published on Friday.

    Even the optimistic figures say that the work force is expected to fall by 200 million workers between 2030 and 2050.

    By 2040, China could have $10 to 100 trillion in unfunded pension costs. China is about to experience the most rapid aging crisis in human history, with the ratio of workers-to-retirees shrinking from 8-to-1 today to 2-to-1 by 2040.

    That’s not the kind of situation that is likely to be conducive to exploring boldy, where no one has gone before.

  11. Building a cloning facility for pets in 1960 just wouldn’t have worked, no matter how profitable the forecasts. Same kinda thing. Offplanet resource gathering is going to create the first trillionaires when the technology is ready.

  12. I don’t see anyone else sending spacecraft to the outer planets and even out of the Solar System.

    Also, I have to think that it might be a wee bit safer to be onboard a NASA approved spacecraft.

    Then too, the Chinese are surely piggybacking heavily on research and development paid for by NASA.

    And finally, yeah, it’s not NASA’s fault, but their budget is controlled by politicians that want pork for their districts. That definitely could do with a shakeup.

  13. Yes US budget maybe higher but it is the most wasteful space program in the universe! China and India can send devices to the Moon at a fraction of the cost. NASA just sucks in all the money. It’s just a matter of time before, China, India and Russia overtake the US simply from inefficient spending.

  14. …and the returns have ever since been diminishing.

    If there were something “up there” to get, it would be got, regardless of how much fiat currency needed to be spent to acquire it – just like Apollo.

  15. 2% growth? Is that the Real Figure for China? I always suspected 6.4% wasn’t right, given the Communist govt’s habit of lying about everything – but 2% ???

  16. It was last year that SpaceX were charging about 65 million for a Falcon 9 launch. That was one of the cheapest launches for that category. But I believe SpaceX now charge 50 million, without any competition. That suggests to me that Musk is chasing new markets.

  17. One of the greatest fillips to the US economy was Sputnik. It galvanized the nation to upgrade its industrial, technological and scientific foundations. The 1960’s was an amazing decade of economic growth.
    Without the political and technological inpetus of the “space race” I would assume that the Western world today might be stuck in the early 60’s. There might be no computers, medical devices, hurricane warnings and such which have saved millions of lives. Indeed, imagine a world without GPS – the economic benefit of GPS is thought to be about one hundred billion a year – that’s the cost of the entire American moon program. And not one cent of all this money was every spent in space.

  18. China growth is far weaker, perhaps 2% a year? Are you aware that the BIS, the World Bank, the WTO and the CIA audit Chinese stats and compare them to real world metrics every 90 days?

    Or that they’ve been doing so for 40 years?

    OR that they have never once found a discrepancy?

    Here’s a reality check you might enjoy: how our average wages will compare to Chinese provincial wages six years from now:

  19. it may begin to establish a research station on the moon by 2025.

    I highly doubt that. China can’t fly the Long March 5 often enough to make that happen. For the next several years, China’s LM-5 manifest will be occupied with building the CSS. This rocket hasn’t even returned to flight yet after its latest failure last year, and it has a launch cadence of at least a year between launches.

  20. As a fraction of spending the Chinese, or American, space programs are not remotely comparable to the military of China, USA or end stage USSR.

    So I don’t see how this space race could drive anyone to bankruptcy.

    The 1960s Apollo program? Yeah, that moved the needle.

    But $8.4 Billion in 2019 dollars? They probably spend more on fake greenwashing environmental programs or subsidizing historical TV shows in which Japan is always the baddie.

  21. It’s going to be awesome when SpaceX got that giant rocket and there still ain’t no business case for it beyond launching delayed wifi satellites.

  22. So, the Chinese don’t care to dump $48B/year into the vacuum of space and maw of bureaucracy? Seems intelligent.

  23. Trying to catch up to Musk during an economic downturn may not be sustainable. In any case, I don’t think anyone can catch SpaceX at this point. Proven reliability has put Falcon on top of the market, outside of the Big Government bureaucracy. The arms race depleted the Soviet treasury, and the New Space Race may do the same to proud Red China, if they are not careful. The Party may decide that winning the Moon is necessary to establish itself as the dominant culture and squeeze more resources out of the population than they are willing to endure.
    Of course, it is not my culture, so I speak from relative ignorance. Having visited China several times and worked with Chinese industry does not give me an advantage in reading their motives.

  24. let’s have a reality check. China growth is far weaker, perhaps 2% a year. After its economics collapse all its grandiose super power projects will evaporate. After a 20-30 years hiatus a new China will be born as a super power, much more in tune with what the world has achieved conceptually in the last century since the end of the great war.

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