The United States leads the world for most space rocket launches in 2016 for the first time since the 1990s.
The US will finish with 20 space rocket launches. China will finish in second with 19 and Russia in third with 18. 2016 is the first time Russia has ever trailed the Chinese in annual launches.
“We have fewer space launches this year than America and China,” said Alexander Ivanov to the first deputy head of the space rocket corporation Roscosmos during the conference “Cosmonautics of the 21st century.”
Since the late 1960s Russia has been an undisputed leader in annual launch rates – launching about 100 rockets per year at its prime. The U.S. briefly overtook Russia in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Since 1957, Russia has launched over 3,000 rockets – roughly twice as many as the U.S.
But today, Russia’s launch rate is drastically declining due to the Russian economy in crisis, space budgets cuts, rapid commercialization in the space flight sector and catastrophic Russian engine failures.
Funding for the next decade of Russian space activity stands at just 1.4 trillion rubles ($21.5 billion). NASA, received a budget of $19.3 billion in 2016 alone.
The United States’ lead is only expected to grow with its increased partnerships with private spaceflight companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.