Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

A Plethora of Small Satellite Launchers

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 3, 2016
Filed under ,
Founder and CEO Peter Beck displays Rocket Lab’s accumulated expertise in carbon composite launch vehicles. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Founder and CEO Peter Beck displays Rocket Lab’s accumulated expertise in carbon composite launch vehicles. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

A new survey has found that more than 50 organizations are working on developing new small satellite launch vehicles capable of lifting up to 500 kg into low Earth orbit (LEO).

Result of the survey, which was conducted by Carlos Niederstrasser and Warren Frick of Orbital ATK, were presented last week during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The survey found that at least 29 launch vehicles are currently under active development. The boosters are shown in the table below.

Small Space Launch Systems Under Active Development
Organization Name Vehicle Name Country Latest Launch Date Launch Frequency
PLD Space Arion 2 Spain 2021  10/year
Bagaveev Corporation Bagaveev USA  50/year
Horizon Space Technologies Black Arrow 2 United Kingdom  4/year
zero2infinity Bloostar Spain 2017
CubeCab Cab-3A USA 2018
Scorpius Space Launch Company Demi-Sprite USA
Tranquility Aerospace Devon Two United Kingdom
Rocket Lab Electron USA/New Zealand Q4 2016 1/week
China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Fei Tian 1 China
Firefly Firefly α USA 2017 50/year
ARCA Space Corporation Haas 2C USA 2016
Rocketcrafters Intrepid-1 USA Q4 2018
LandSpace LandSpace-1 China Q4 2017
Virgin Galactic LauncherOne USA  H2 2017 24/year
Interorbital Systems NEPTUNE N5 USA 2017
Open Space Orbital Neutrino I Canada
Nammo North Star Launch Service Norway 2020
Orbital Access Orbital 500 United Kingdom 2020
Leap Space Primo Italy 20/year
SpaceLS Prometheus-1 United Kingdom Q4 2017
Celestia Aerospace Sagitarius Space Arrow Spain 2016
Swiss Space Systems SOAR Switzerland 2018
UP Aerospace Spyder USA
CONAE Tronador II Argentina 2019
VALT Enterprises VALT USA 1000s/year
bspace Volant USA 2018  Multiple/quarter
Vector Space Systems Wolverine USA 2018  100/year
Lin Industrial Таймыр-1A Russia Q1 2020

The authors also put together a watch list of projects that did not meet one of their criteria for being actively under development.

Watch List of Small Satellite Launchers
Organization Vehicle Name Country
Airbus Unknown France
Avio Spa Unknown Italy
Departamento de Ciencia e Tecnologia Aeroespacial VLM-1 Brazil
Generation Orbit GOLauncher 2 USA
Gilmour Space Technologies Eris Australia
Heliaq Advanced Engineering Austral Launch Vehicle Australia
New Ascent Unknown USA
Newton Launch Systems Unknown United Kingdom
Odyne Space Unknown USA
One Space Technology Unknown China
Relativity Space Unknown USA
RocketStar N/A USA
SpinLaunch Unknown USA
Stofiel Aerospace Unknown USA
Stratolaunch Unknown USA
Swedish Space Corporation Rainbow Smallsat Express Sweden
U. Hawaii, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Sandia Super Strypi USA
Unreasonable Rocket Unreasonable Rocket USA
Whittinghill Aerospace Minimum Cost Launch Vehicle USA

The table below shows the system performance, launch types and launch locations for boosters under development.

System Performance, Launch Type & Location
Vehicle Name Performance Orbit Launch Type Launch Location
Devon Two 4 kg LEO Land
Cab-3A 5 kg 400 km Air  Int’l Water
Spyder 8 kg 370 km Land Wallops, Cape Canaveral
Bagaveev 10 kg SSO Land, Water
Таймыр-1A 12 kg LEO Land
North Star Launch Service 20 kg 350 km Land Andøya Rocket Range, Norway
NEPTUNE N5 40 kg 310 km SSO Land, Water Moody Space Centre, Australia. Int’l Water
Wolverine 45 kg
35 kg
Land, Sea Kodiak, Cape Canaveral
Neutrino I 50 kg LEO Land
Primo 50 kg 700 km SSO Land
Sagitarius Space Arrow 64 kg 600 km Air Int’l Water, Spanish airport
Bloostar 100 kg 75 kg LEO 600 km SSO Balloon Int’l Water
Arion 2 150 kg 400 km Land South Europe
Electron 150 kg 500 km SSO Land Birdling’s Flat, New Zealand
Demi-Sprite 160 kg LEO Land
LauncherOne 200 kg SSO Air Int’l Water
Volant 215 kg LEO Land Kodiak
Prometheus-1 250 kg LEO Unknown
SOAR 250 kg LEO Air/Space Canary Islands, Spaceport Colorado
Tronador II 250 kg 600 km SSO Land Puerto Belgrano Naval Base
Intrepid-1 376 kg 500 km SSO Land Kennedy Space Center
Firefly α 400 kg
200 kg
Land Kodiak Preferred
Haas 2C 400 kg LEO Land Spaceport America
Fei Tian 1 430 kg 500 km SSO Land
M-OV 454 kg LEO Land
Black Arrow 2 500 kg
200 kg
200 km
600 km SSO
Land Worldwide
Pegasus XL 468 kg 200 km Air Int’l Water; Multiple locations demonstrated
Orbital 500 500 kg 500 km SSO Air
LandSpace-1 530 kg
400 kg
300 km 500 km SSO Land China

The table below shows projected launch costs for select launch vehicles.

Small Satellite Booster Launch Costs
Vehicle Name Projected Launch
Estimated Cost per kg
Sagitarius Space Arrow $0.2 M $10.6 k
NEPTUNE N5 $0.5 M $12.5 k
Black Arrow 2 $6.6 M $13.2 k
Intrepid-1 $5.4 M $14.4 k
Firefly α $8.0 M $20.0 k
Wolverine $1.0 M $22.2 k
Demi-Sprite $3.6 M $22.5 k
Unknown $0.3 M $25.0 k
Electron $4.9 M $32.7 k
Таймыр-1A $0.5 M $40.0 k
SOAR $10.0 M $40.0 k
Bloostar $4.0 M $40.0 k
Cab-3A $0.3 M $50.0 k
LauncherOne $10.0 M $50.0 k
Spyder $1.0 M $125.3 k
VALT $1.7 M No mass spec

The following table shows funding sources for selected boosters.

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle Funding Sources
Vehicle Name Funding Source
Arion 2 Spanish government, EC, Caixa Capital Risc, Gobierno de Aragon
Bloostar Pre sales, Investors
Cab-3A Biz Plan Competition
Electron NZ Gov, Kholsa, VBP, K1W1, LM
Firefly α Logal Gov, VC, NASA
Intrepid-1 State of Florida
LauncherOne Virgin Group
NEPTUNE N5 Presales
Sagitarius Space Arrow One signed up customer
SOAR Brietling, pre IPO equity promotion
Unknown Tim Draper, Adam Draper, DCVC, New Gen Silicon Valley Partners
VALT Office of Naval Research, Mainte Space Grant
Wolverine Seed Angels, NASA, DARPA
Таймыр-1A Sergei Burkatovsky