SpaceX launches smallsat programme as market quadruples

SpaceX launches smallsat programme as market set to hit $42bn

08 August 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The market for small satellites will almost quadruple in the next decade, and is currently almost doubling every year.

Satellite specialist Euroconsult says the 2019-2028 market will be worth $42.8 billion, compared with $12.6 billion in the previous decade.

At the same time launch company SpaceX has introduced what it calls “rideshare missions” on its Falcon 9 reusable rockets (pictured) “for as low as $2.25 million per mission”, including up to 150kg of satellites.

In the past small satellite companies have hitched rides with operators of larger satellites as a way of cutting costs. Now, says SpaceX, “these missions will not be dependent on a primary. These missions will be pre-scheduled and will not be held up by delays with co-passengers”.

Alexandre Najjar, a consultant at Euroconsult and the editor of the new report, said: “The smallsat market continues to grow in significance for investors, manufacturers, the supply chain, and a range of other stakeholders.”

Najjar added: “Our report … provides tangible evidence of the increasing demand for smaller and more capable spacecraft.”

In 2017 and 2018 there was a 93% increase in the number of small satellites launched, compared with 2014-16. A total of 8,600 small satellites will be launched in the next decade, at an average of 835 each year by 2023, growing to an average of 880 a year by 2028, says the company.

Euroconsult identified SpaceX as one of the drivers of the boom in small satellites, along with OneWeb and Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

Constellations account for 83% of the satellites to be launched by 2028, said the market research company.

Satellites in the 250-500kg range represented 6% of the total number of satellites launched between 2009 and 2018, but will grow to 18% of the satellites launched in the next ten years.

Satellites under 10kg will account for 28% of the smallsats launched in the next decade, but only 2% of the total market value, says Euroconsult.  

Broadband satellite communication should witness the strongest growth, it added, with close to 4,200 satellites expected from 2019 to 2028.