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International Space Activities

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Launching Countries

NASA and International Cooperation in Space

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Almost every country in the world is a "space-faring" country in the sense that they use satellites for communications and weather forecasting, and increasingly for satellite navigation and resource management. A smaller number of countries, along with companies and international organizations, own satellites. But the most attention is paid to the few countries with an ability to launch satellites. The following are the launching countries of the world today in the order in which they first placed a satellite into orbit. 

Russia (1957)*
United States (1958)
Japan (1970)
China (1970)
European Space Agency (1979)**
India (1980)
Israel (1988)
Iran (2009) 

*Formerly the Soviet Union.
** The European Space Agency (ESA) is a multi-national agency that currently has 18 members. Two of its members, France and Britain, launched satellites into space early in the space age (France from 1965-1976, Britain in 1971) as part of their national space programs before joining together with other European countries to build the Ariane launch vehicle. Since neither launches satellites individually today, they are not included in the list above. Ariane launches are conducted by the French company Arianespace.

Download fact sheets, Box Score of 2009 Space Launches, Box Score of 2010 Space Launches, and Box Score of 2011 Space Launches, showing how many successes and failures the launching countries had in those years respectively.

Further information about the space activities of the non-U.S. launching countries can be found at the websites of their government space agencies. Almost all have English-language websites.

China National Space Administration

European Space Agency

Indian Space Research Organization

Iranian Space Agency

Israel Space Agency

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos)


International cooperation has been a hallmark of NASA's programs throughout its history. The law that created NASA, the1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act, included Section 205 that encouraged NASA to cooperate with other countries.  A 2008 report by NASA's Office of International and Interagency Relations (then the Office of External Relations) states that NASA had signed 4,000 international agreements by that time.  The report, Global Reach: A View of NASA's International Cooperation, lists all the international cooperative projects ongoing at NASA at that time.

Today, the most far-reaching international space program is the International Space Station. The U.S.-led ISS is being built by the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and 11 members of ESA (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom). 


The Space Foundation publishes an annual report, The Space Report, that provides information on the space activities of leading spacefaring countries in addition to details U.S. space activities and the global "space economy."  The most recent edition is The Space Report 2013, which is available for purchase on the Space Foundation's website.

The European Space Policy Institute is a European think tank that provides "decisionmakers with an independent view and analysis on mid- to long-term issues relevant to the use of space." It writes a "Yearbook on Space Policy" that is published by and available for purchase from Springer.  The most recent edition is for 2010/2011.

The Secure World Foundation promotes cooperative solutions for space sustainability.  It holds symposia in the United States, Europe and elsewhere on topics concerning international space issues and publishes related issue papers that are available on its website.  In partnership with Canada's Project Ploughshares, it publishes the annual Space Security Index.




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