By 2030, there will be an estimated 11,631 launch demands for new constellation installations and replacement missions, which could take the market past the $62 billion mark, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan titled Small-satellite Launch Services Market, Quarterly Update Q1 2018, Forecast to 2030. This surge in launch demand has been attributed to the evolution of small satellites from mere technology demonstrators to providers of low-cost operational services across distributed industry segments. As the lifespan of these satellites is between two and five years, there will be constant launch demand and participants will look to enhance their systems and infrastructure.
“While North American and European companies will be the leading developers of flexible, dedicated launch vehicles, players in Asia-Pacific are looking to follow suit,” commented Vivek Suresh Prasad, Space Industry Principal, Aerospace & Defense, speaking about the report, which is part of Frost & Sullivan’s global Space Growth Partnership Service programme.
“Many players are also analysing the feasibility of the small-satellite spaceport business model to provide dedicated launch services to small-satellite operators.”
The report studies the demand for small-satellite launch based on operators’ maturity, mass classes, and user segments. It forecasts the number of small satellites, payload mass, and launch revenue based on defined scenarios.
It states that the high volume of launch demand for small satellites is driving satellite operators to increase their launch capacity. The current rideshare capacity is insufficient to meet the upcoming launch demand. Most small satellites use the rideshare capacity as a secondary payload on existing launches. This makes their project schedule and mission requirements dependent on the primary payload. Many incumbent and emerging commercial operators are preparing for the impending capacity expansion by providing dedicated services and launch flexibility to small-satellite operators.
Once the unit shipment needs are met, the market could grow impressively.
The report outlines a number of significant numbers. For instance, the total projected launch capacity supply, including the success of multiple dedicated planned launch services, is 11,640 small satellites. In this case, a total payload mass of 2,473 tonnes can be potentially launched. Small satellites in the mass segments of 0 to 15 Kg and 150 to 500 Kg could account for as much as 65% of the small-satellite launch demand. 32 small-satellite commercial operators will generate more than 90% of the launch demand.
Overall, significant market opportunities will be created by high-volume subsystem demand, dedicated launch services for small satellites, capacity expansion of ground station services, and standard platforms for downstream services.
“The key to resolving production challenges is to standardise, optimise and deploy low-rate serial production lines for small satellites and the launch hardware for the relevant launch vehicles,” noted Prasad.