1
$\begingroup$

In support of the meta question "Role of country tags", I think it would be helpful for us to define what we mean by a space agency.

Wikipedia defines space agencies as

government agencies engaged in activities related to outer space and space exploration.

and then provides a list of 72 agencies that meet that definition. The list is quite broad, and includes a lot of countries that have put nothing into space (not even with the help of another country). It appears that some countries create a space agency merely for prestige.

What do you think our criteria should be to call something a space agency? Some potential criteria include the following. I don't agree with all of them; this is just a list.

  1. Having the words "space agency" in your organization's name.

  2. Building rockets.

  3. Having a launch site.
  4. Launching sounding rockets.
  5. Wikipedia's definition of full launch capability: "launch and recover multiple satellites, deploy cryogenic rocket engines and operate extraterrestrial probes".

  6. Designing or building payloads.

  7. Launching a payload into orbit on someone else's rocket.
  8. Launching a payload into orbit on one's own rocket.
  9. Operating Earth satellites.
  10. Operating extraterrestrial probes.

  11. Providing or training astronauts.

  12. Launching an astronaut on someone else's rocket.
  13. Launching an astronaut on one's own rocket.

  14. Analyzing scientific data collected from space.

  15. Promoting space-related industries to the public, including manufacturing and tourism.
  16. Lobbying for government support of space-related industries.
  17. Providing funding for any of the above (especially in one's own country).
  18. Do multi-national agencies (e.g. ESA, UN) count?
  19. Do sub-national agencies (e.g. Florida, Texas) count?
  20. What are private companies (e.g. SpaceX) called?

Also related: Will Scotland require a space agency? Is there one in the works?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would start with simply checking to see if it calls itself a space agency literally or effectively after translation. I see about 28 of those on that page. I don't think it would be productive to get in a position of second-guessing a government's names for its own agencies. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 1 '18 at 9:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ but NASA doesn't and ESRO didn't @uhoh, so I don't think that's a great starting point. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 6 '18 at 17:11
6
$\begingroup$

Is there a reason not to follow Wikipedia's definition?

Wikipedia defines space agencies as government agencies engaged in activities related to outer space and space exploration.

Adopting a different definition for this site seems counterproductive to me: it invites confusion and doesn't provide any benefits.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yes please. This is a case where the obvious is good enough. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Dec 1 '18 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ What about a non-governmental space agency? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Dec 3 '18 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ That's not an agency, that's a company. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Dec 3 '18 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ A space agency, IMO, coordinates space-related activities for the whole country. It performs research and/or provides infrastructure that can be used by launch providers and satellite builders. While it's possible for a country to delegate all that to a private company, I'm not aware of any that do this. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Dec 3 '18 at 13:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes Technically, Roscosmos is a company, but since it is state-owned it's not really an exception to your statement. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 3 '18 at 17:45
2
$\begingroup$

Whatever criteria is chosen, I would consider the following to be bona-fide space agencies and thus a minimal list (in order of date established):

  • ROSCOSMOS (Russia)
  • NASA (United States)
  • ISRO (India)
  • ESA (Europe)
  • CNSA (China)
  • JAXA (Japan)
  1. Having the words "space agency" in your organization's name.

Should not be a factor.

  1. Building rockets.

No, allows too many trivial things.

  1. Having a launch site.

No, would include places like Guiana and Congo, which haven't contributed anything to space other than their geography.

  1. Launching sounding rockets.

No, allows too many trivial things.

  1. Wikipedia's definition of full launch capability.

Anything that meets this should be included, but the definition should not be limited to this.

  1. Designing or building payloads.

If the payload hasn't been launched, shouldn't qualify.

  1. Launching a payload into orbit on someone else's rocket.

Possibly could qualify an organization.

  1. Launching a payload into orbit on one's own rocket.

Should definitely qualify an organization.

  1. Operating Earth satellites.

Possibly could qualify an organization.

  1. Operating extraterrestrial probes.

Should definitely qualify an organization.

  1. Providing or training astronauts.

Possibly could qualify an organization.

  1. Launching an astronaut on someone else's rocket.

Possibly could qualify an organization.

  1. Launching an astronaut on one's own rocket.

Should definitely qualify an organization.

  1. Analyzing scientific data collected from space.

No, allows too many trivial things.

  1. Promoting space-related industries to the public, including manufacturing and tourism.

No, allows too many trivial things.

  1. Lobbying for government support of space-related industries.

No, allows too many trivial things.

  1. Providing funding for any of the above (especially in one's own country).

The outcome should matter, not the funding.

  1. Do multi-national agencies (e.g. ESA, UN) count?

Yes, if and only if it meets other criteria.

  1. Do sub-national agencies (e.g. Florida, Texas) count?

No, should not.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So I strongly disagree on #1. I would start with simply checking to see if it calls itself a space agency literally or effectively after translation. I see about 28 of those on that page. I don't think it would be productive to get in a position of second-guessing a government's names for its own agencies. I don't think that starting 28 debates on 28 government agencies' actual function versus named function is something worth pursuing. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 1 '18 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ Then SpaceX is a space agency? $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 1 '18 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM: I'll add that as question #20. $\endgroup$ – Dr Sheldon Dec 1 '18 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ but it already meets criterion 8, launching a roadster into solar orbit. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 1 '18 at 18:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ SpaceX is disqualified by not being a government agency. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Dec 1 '18 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM Does SpaceX refer to itself as a "space agency"? I have not seen that anywhere. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 3 '18 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ criterion 1 is the only one in that list that mentions an organisation calling itself a space agency @called2voyage, and then says that shouldn't be a factor. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 3 '18 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM Ok, I misunderstood you as replying to uhoh instead of Dr Sheldon. Your comment is clearer now. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 3 '18 at 19:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The list doesn't mention being a government agency at all @Hobbes - in fact it mentions lobbying government (albeit negatively) so that suggests the list of criteria can be applied to non-government organisations. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 3 '18 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ "Wikipedia defines space agencies as government agencies engaged in a"... $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Dec 3 '18 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed @hobbes, but this answer doesn't. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 4 '18 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ I would include CNES (France) and DLR (Germany) in the list. They both have bigger budgets than ISRO, and provide much of the research needed to build the Ariane rockets. $\endgroup$ – Rikki-Tikki-Tavi Dec 11 '18 at 4:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .