International Space Activities

International Space Activities

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Launching Countries

NASA and International Cooperation in Space

For More Information


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 and Box Score of 2010 Space Launches , showing how many successes and failures the launching countries had in 2009 and 2010 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. 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 in space activities has been a hallmark of the U.S. space program since its inception. Section 205 of the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act permits NASA to engage in international cooperative efforts.

Sec. 205. The Administration, under the foreign policy guidance of the President, may engage in a program of international cooperation in work done pursuant to this Act, and in the peaceful application of the results thereof, pursuant to agreements made by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The language requiring international agreements to be made with the “advice and consent of the Senate” was the subject of a comment by President Eisenhower in his signing statement on the Act: “I regard this section merely as recognizing that international treaties may be made in this field, and as not precluding, in appropriate cases, less formal arrangements for cooperation. To construe the section otherwise would raise substantial constitutional questions.”

According to Michael O’Brien, NASA’s Assistant Administrator for External Relations, NASA has been involved with more than 3,000 agreements with over 100 nations or international organizations in its first 50 years. (Testimony to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology on April 2, 2008).

Today, the most far-reaching international space program is the International Space Station. The 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 U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. is a “think tank” that “provides strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers in government, international institutions, the private sector and civil society.” Its Technology and Public Policy Program hosts the Space Initiative.

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 an annual “Yearbook on Space Policy“.

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