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Major Trends in Small Satellite Services




Nov 9, 2019



The small satellite services market is projected to grow from USD 11.04 billion in 2016 to USD 53.22 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 29.03% from 2017 to 2022. The base year considered for the study is 2016, and the forecast period is from 2017 to 2022.

 

Increasing focus on reducing mission costs

The cost incurred, with respect to launching a large satellite, acts as a restraint to the growth of the nascent space industry, and space-related research and exploration activities. The demand for small satellites is rising, owing to the increasing focus on reducing the total mission cost. Moreover, small satellites tend to cost less, especially in cases where mission payloads have less demanding accommodation requirements. Furthermore, small satellites can be launched on small launch vehicles that are cost-efficient. This decline in cost is anticipated to provide impetus to small satellite missions and spacecraft buses that support the same. In addition, technological advancements are expected to further enhance the capabilities of small satellites and cost less.

 

The improvements in computer-aided designs, early definition of design requirements, interface control documents, and hardware and software reuse are expected to lower the cost of operations and mission.

 

Programmatic and scientific risks involved in the production of small satellites

An increase in the number of private entrants in the small satellite market has led to a decline in dependence on governments for investments. Although this has opened several investment opportunities, it has increased the risk of failures due to negligence in the development process.

 

These companies make the most of the shorter development span and low cost of production of small satellites without a thorough analysis. This leads to a high risk of launch failures. Satellite development needs a thorough understanding of numerical modeling, as well as practical analysis and any flaw in the loop leads to failure of the launch mission. It is of utmost importance to understand and mitigate the flaw, and respond to it as quickly as possible. The immediate launch of the next mission is one way of mitigating the failure.

 

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How will high data rate communication serve as an opportunity for the small satellite services market?

Small satellite services, such as the ones provided by CubeSat, microsatellite, and minisatellite have received significant attention recently. The development of secondary launch systems to provide a low-cost launching system to space has increased the number of small satellites in orbit. The main advantage of small satellites over other satellites is their size and cost-effectiveness. Small satellite services revolve mainly around communication. The use of small satellites in constellation will result in effective coverage in orbit for efficient communication. However, small satellites have been slow in developing high data rate communications. Initially, the CubeSat systems were built on the amateur satellite service with low available data rates. Researchers are working on developing high rate of small satellite transceivers.

 

Thus, the development of CubeSat with high data rate communication capability will help in reducing the cost of communication drastically. This development will result in efficient communication at a low cost, thus serving as a growth opportunity for the small satellite services market.

 

What challenges do radio spectrum availability issues present for the small satellite services market?

There has been a rise in the number of CubeSat launches since 2015. CubeSats operate in Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band (435 to 438 MHz). The uplink and downlink frequencies that are allotted to CubeSats are regulated by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). The frequency bandwidth availability is very small in UHF. Additionally, the achievable data rates are low in the UHF band. Due to the abovementioned factors, it is required to migrate satellite frequencies in higher X-Band and KA-Band frequencies, where the availability of bandwidth is huge. However, to deploy satellites in these bands, special licenses are required.

 

Authority agencies, such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations, regulate the utilization of radio frequencies and law of nations scale radiocommunication services. Every country has a governing authority, which allocates a specific operating frequency for a small satellite mission. However, to obtain the license to launch and deploy a satellite in higher band frequencies, it is required to undergo a time- and cost-intensive process, including documentation and payment for band allotment. This is posing a challenge to the small satellite services market.

 

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