A new private-sector study has shed light on the current status of the global space industry.

Futron, a well-known analytical group, has released the 2012 edition of the Space Competitiveness Index, ranking nations by involvement in the space sector. The US ranks first on the index, though it ranks lower than in 2011 due to the loss of human spaceflight capacity and "major transition amid significant uncertainty."

Of the top 10 countries analyzed, the report notes, only the US has shown five straight years of competitiveness declines, while other nations near the top have shown a net increase in competitiveness.

Europe is treated as a single entity, "Europe's integrated approach is complemented by the rise of new national space agencies across the continent - from the United Kingdom to the Czech Republic to Estonia," the Index notes.

Also on the rise are nations with emerging space programmes, including Iran and India. Established actors, including Russia and Japan, have seen relative declines.

Source: Flight International