The market for small satellites is growing

Over the last few years there has been a trend in the established satellite industry toward higher efficiency per unit mass on orbit. This is seen in both smaller size and in higher performance spacecraft. Especially in the last two years, the small satellite market has matured significantly and is growing rapidly.


The trend toward smaller spacecraft can, at least in part, be attributed to the introduction of the Cubesat standard for nano satellites. Nano satellites have a segment of the market in their own right. Starting humbly as a “do-it-yourself” space system of 1 cubic decimeter (defined as 1Unit or 1U) aimed mostly at educational purposes, Cubesats have grown both in size and reliability such that six unit (6U) Cubesats are performing increasingly advanced missions.

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From 10 to 500 satellites launched per year

Five years ago there were only 10-20 small satellites launched annually. Today that number is closer to 200/year, and five years from now it is estimated to be more than double that at 500/year. The number of small satellites expected to be launched was described in the 2014 SpaceWorks report (shown in figure below). Several mega-constellations, with 100 – 4,600 satellites, have also been announced the last years, which further boost the growth of the market. Note that the figure below only shows launches of 1-50 kg satellites while several of the mega-constellations plan to use satellites in the 100-150 kg class.

Source: 2016 Nano/Microsatellite Market Assessment report by SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (click on the graph to see a larger version).

Commercial and scientific missions are increasing

ÅAC’s observations of market trends are that all mission types divided by segment are growing in number. However, the earlier so common university/educational and technology demonstration missions are not growing as fast as missions with a commercial and/or scientific purpose. Therefore, we see an overall increase in percentage of missions that suit ÅAC’s offering. This conclusion also draws support from the SmallSat market survey conducted by NewSpace Global.

According to the report, a strong portion of respondents stated that over 50% of targeted customers went commercial in 2014. While the vast majority of revenue generated by SmallSats has historically been driven by civil, academic, military, public sector contracts, expectations of a market shift towards scalable, commercial customers is the consensus opinion. The figure below clearly shows that technology demonstrations are decreasing in percentage.

Source: NewSpace Global 2014 Smallsat report (click on the graph to see a larger version).

It is foreseen that this trend will increase the need for more high-end avionics since the suppliers of services want to be able to guarantee availability and performance over the mission lifetime. ÅAC is well positioned in the market with its product portfolios to meet that need.

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