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Prospective analysis of small satellite development in the next 10 years

Release date:2021-12-28Author source:KinghelmViews:544

With the development of computer technology, data analysis technology, artificial intelligence technology, high frequency change detection and other related science and technology, satellites began to become miniaturized and close to earth. The new low-cost satellite constellation is designed to provide global connectivity through low latency or high frequency change detection. Euroconsult expects to launch about 10105 satellites below 500kg in the next 10 years. The main reason for the increase in the number of small satellites is that a few well funded and ambitious new entrants seek to develop large constellations, such as SpaceX's Starlink constellation and Amazon's Kuiper constellation. The novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) does not reduce the total number of small satellites launched in the next 10 years, and its impact is more reflected in other areas such as regional and application markets.

1 small satellite application market  

Small satellite constellation covers a series of applications, including communication, earth observation, science and technology, security, science and exploration and space logistics. With the passage of time, the focus of small satellites serving different applications has also changed. It is expected that 2020-2029 will show the following characteristics:

1) The number of small communications satellites is expected to grow most strongly: the total number of launches in the next 10 years will reach nearly 5700, with "star chain" and "Kuiper" satellites alone accounting for 92%.

2) Although the market share of small earth observation satellites has decreased, the number of satellites is expected to increase from 580 in 2010-2019 to nearly 1500 in 2020-2029. The growth mainly comes from multispectral and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) small satellites.

3) Science and technology satellites are defined as the test-bed for future technologies and payloads to support technological innovation and education. They will increase from 710 in the past 10 years to about 1200 in the next 10 years.

4) The use of narrowband to connect remote equipment and users' information small satellites has ushered in a new momentum of development. It is expected that 950 satellites will collect data from ground sensors such as remote equipment and networked vehicles through the emerging Internet of things (IOT) and machine to machine (M2M) communication for air and maritime traffic monitoring systems, including space-based ship automatic identification system (AIS), broadcast automatic correlation monitoring system (ADS-B) and radio frequency monitoring.

5) About 560 satellites are used for other emerging applications such as safety, science and exploration and space logistics.

2 small satellite launch applications

In the next 10 years, commercial operation will be the most important part of small satellite applications, accounting for about 76% of the total number of satellites. Most commercially operated small satellites will exist in the form of satellite constellations. In novel coronavirus pneumonia, the SpaceX satellite chain has deployed more than 1000 satellites, and continues to produce large-scale production under the background of the spread of the new crown pneumonia. It is expected that projects with high maturity will also be fully deployed in the next few years. However, it is worth noting that there are still many risks and challenges in the commercial operation of small satellites, including a large amount of early capital expenditure, unconfirmed business model, and complex economic environment that may affect investors' willingness to invest. In the next 10 years, in addition to commercial small satellites, 11% of small satellites will be used for academic research, 7% for civil government and 6% for national defense.

3. Total value of small satellite manufacturing and launch market

In terms of market value, the total market value of small satellite manufacturing and launching in the next 10 years is expected to reach US $51.3 billion, more than three times that of the past 10 years. Compared with the same period, the total number of small satellites launched is expected to increase six times, which reflects the reduction of the cost of new satellites. The decline in manufacturing and launch costs is mainly due to the rise of cube satellites and mass production constellations. Commercial small satellites will become the category with the highest market value in the next 10 years. According to the estimation of European Consulting Company, its market value will increase from US $3.3 billion in the past 10 years to about US $17.5 billion in the next 10 years. Civil government small satellites are expected to be the second largest category of small satellites in the next 10 years, with an estimated market value of US $17 billion, and its main participants are space agencies and research institutions. Due to the change of government budget and procurement cycle, the total market value of such satellites usually fluctuates periodically. The total market value of defense small satellites is expected to reach US $15.9 billion in the next 10 years, an increase of 489% compared with the past 10 years. In the past, national defense satellites preferred large satellites with strong use ability, long service life and high scientific and technological content, but now they gradually began to use small satellites to participate in operation.

From 2010 to 2019, 1805 small satellites were launched around the world. The "polar orbiting satellite launch vehicle" (PSLV), falcon-9 and Soyuz rockets account for 46% of the number of launched satellites, carrying a total of 829 small satellites. In the past, it was difficult for small satellites to enter orbit and the launch time was often delayed. After many years of bottleneck period, with the emergence of new launch vehicles and small satellite launch intermediaries, small satellites have more launch options. In the next 10 years, the market value of small satellite launch is expected to increase from US $3.9 billion in the past 10 years to US $17.6 billion. Rocket companies used to think that the launch demand of small satellites was scattered and the cost was low. Their profit was not as good as that of traditional geostationary orbit (GEO) large satellites. However, due to the rapid rise of small satellite projects and the greatly reduced demand for traditional large-scale satellite launch, the rocket company quickly adjusted its market strategy and began to focus on the development of two kinds of launchers, one is low-cost micro or small launchers, The other is heavy launchers such as "new Glenn" rockets and "starship".

4 Conclusion

Overall, in recent years, with the gradual launch of satellite constellation projects of all sizes, the small satellite market will usher in rapid development. The impact of the novel coronavirus pneumonia is mainly on the production launch and investment and financing of some small satellite projects, and will not directly affect the growth of small satellite launch in the long run. On the contrary, due to the promotion of large satellite constellation projects, the diversity of launch options and the improvement of launch capacity. In terms of launch quantity, launch quality and total value of manufacturing launch market, small satellites will double in the next 10 years.

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