Low-cost Operations Help Drive Smallsat Launch Market Toward $62 Billion by 2030

Electron lifts off on maiden flight from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Dedicated, flexible, on-demand launch vehicles crucial to meet huge demand, finds Frost & Sullivan

LONDON, May 14, 2018 (Frost & Sullivan PR) — The evolution of small satellites from technology demonstrators to providers of low-cost operational services across distributed industry segments is attracting launch demand from organisations all over the world. 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. As the lifespan of these satellites is between two years 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,” said Vivek Suresh Prasad, Space Industry Principal, Aerospace & Defense. “Many players are also analysing the feasibility of the small-satellite spaceport business model to provide dedicated launch services to small-satellite operators.”

Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, Small-satellite Launch Services Market, Quarterly Update Q1 2018, Forecast to 2030, 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.

For further information on this analysis, please visit: http://frost.ly/2gm

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. Some key numbers are outlined below:

  • 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 Vivek.

Small-satellite Launch Services Market, Quarterly Update Q1 2018, Forecast to 2030 is part of Frost & Sullivan’s global Space Growth Partnership Service program.

  • Michael Halpern

    The projection is too far into the future to be reliable.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Bah. Only 16 BFR size loads.

    Satellite operators can either pay SpaceX thousands of dollars for steerage rates or millions of dollars to delicate smallsat launchers.

    Presuming that SpaceX doesn’t offer hosted and ride along payloads on their Starlink constellations. Which have an annual fleet replenishment of about 1200 new satellites with full constellations deployment.

  • Michael Halpern

    Depends on where they are going, smaller vehicles could become reusable and/or mass produced or otherwise efficiently manufactured

  • ThomasLMatula

    But it did achieve its real goal of getting free advertising for Frost and Sullivan!

  • Aegis Maelstrom

    Bollocks. These sats need to be dispensed to proper orbits, in a proper time frame.

    The dispensers themselves limit usable payloads significantly, and it is a tip of the iceberg.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Presuming you are referring to the Frost & Sullivan smallsats.

    When saying they ride steerage. It meant whatever unused cargo tonnage is available on any BFR flights. Which should number in the a few hundreds annually with the initial operational capacity of the BFR. So an additional 16 BFR size equivalent payloads spread through the BFR flights to FY2030 is quite easily done. Think BFR rideshare.

    The BFR does not need conventional dispensing systems for smallsats. In theory you could open the main cargo hatch and toss out the smallsats after retrieving and checking them from their shipping containers. Or just modified the main cargo hatch to incorporate a few micro airlock/ejecter to deploy smallsats.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    BFR is intended to launch extremely frequently (daily or several times a day) and the more BFR can be used, the cheaper it will get. BFR can launch to a number of set “intermediate” orbits – sort of orbital distribution centres, from where a distribution network of reusable SEP tugs could deliver satellites to more precise orbits. BFR would only need to lift the satellite and tug fuel (presumably xenon or argon).
    The long-term goal is surely an orbital infrastructure, and the low launch cost and large payload volume of BFR enables that. Furthermore, it is highly likely that by the time this small satellite economy reaches into the tens of billions, a substantial number of those satellites will actually be manufactured in orbit. BFR can lift materials and components, and the in-space factories to assemble them.