The global satellite launch vehicle (SLV) market, since its inception, has been traversing along a positive growth path. Undeniably, this can be attributed to the rapid increase in the number of satellite launches on an yearly basis, and numerous navigation and communication, R&D, and scientific applications. Having had a humble start, SLV industry is now characterized by a number of technological advancements in satellite design, and companies have been readily allotting capital to ensure successful satellite launches.
To illustrate, a few years ago, the state-owned developer and producer of launch vehicles, China Aerospace Science and Technological Corporation (CASC), had announced that it was ready to deliver economical and faster low earth orbit launches. In yet another instance, Chinese company Landspace, very recently raised USD 175 million in a Series C+ funding round targeted at developing its Zhuque-2 series – comprising methane-liquid oxygen launch vehicles. The funding will be used to develop the Zhuque-2 (Vermillion Bird-2) series of satellite launch vehicles that are designed to deliver satellites to Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO) and low Earth orbits (LEO).
Ironically, this funding round came only a few weeks after Landspace’s rival firm iSpace raised USD 173 million in a series B round funding to ensure the development of a novel series of launch reusable methalox engines and vehicles. In essence, this goes on to illustrate the proactiveness of space technology companies and their efforts to bring more SLVs to the mainstream.
The following paragraphs encompass the numerous trends this industry will be characterized by, through 2024:
Rising prominence of GEO orbits
GEO orbit, in recent times, has been gaining more prominence than its counterparts. In 2017, GEO orbit segment lead the SLV market, accounting for a business share of USD 1.3 billion. The reason for its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it does not require reorientation post the launch. Also, it follows a specified distance and path from the Earth.
GEO orbits are massively used in environmental data analysis, intensive observation data analysis, and homeland security. Driven by its reliable transmission, low maintenance, and low-cost communication, GEO orbit SLVs are expected to gain commendable traction in the years to come.
Increasing demand for primary payloads
Primary payload segment accounted for 61% of SLV market share in 2017. This can be attributed to the rising satellite launches for particular missions in scientific research and tactical intelligence. The development of new launch sites and the numerous initiatives enforced across emerging nations so as to expand their space programs will also have a positive impact on the industry growth.
Surging demand from communication applications
SLVs have been gaining massive traction across the communications sector. Indeed, in 2017, communications segment had been the largest application segment for the global satellite launch vehicle industry, accounting for 40% of the market share.
Rising focus by the communications companies to enhance bandwidth and ensure high-speed connectivity are the major parameters driving the demand for SLVs in communications sector. Also, the increasing deployment of smart devices, wireless technology, and IoT will increase the requirement of satellites for communication applications.
Rising popularity across the APAC
Asia Pacific is projected to come up as one of the most lucrative growth grounds for SLV market. Driven by a rising focus on establishing numerous indigenous space research programs, APAC accounted for over 37% of the global SLV market share in 2017. The regional industry is also likely to gain impetus from the integration of communicative technologies in science, military, and government services.
APAC economies such as China and India have actually been using satellite launch services to secure their economic and geopolitical interests so as to enhance the competitiveness and foster growth in the SLV industry, as their respective space organizations work to forge long-term agreements on any potential commercial and non-commercial launches.
Rising efforts by industry players
Some of the popular players in SLV industry include Virgin Galactic, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Boeing Space & Communication, ISRO, Kelly Space & Technology, Lockheed Martin, and more. These companies have been striving to bring SLVs to the mainstream. Aided by technological intervention and government support, these vehicles have been slowly gathering momentum and are now being used across a spate of verticals. However, these firms have been engaging in long-term M&As, partnerships, and product launches to maintain an edge over one another.
On that note, recently, large launch vehicle operator Arianespace, from the Guiana Space Center, launched its Vega light payload rocket carrying 53 satellites, to numerous target destinations in the low Earth orbit. Funded by the European Commission and the European Space Agency, this was actually a proof-of-concept mission, however, it did actually carry satellites on behalf of commercial end-users.
Highlighting yet another instance, the operator of the biggest integrated satellite and terrestrial network across the globe, Intelsat, recently declared that it has finalized its contracts with launch-vehicle providers and satellite manufacturers to meet the C-band spectrum clearing timelines that were set by the FCC earlier this year. The firm has forged an agreement with U.S.-based Maxar Technologies so as to build the final satellite that’ll support its C-band transition.
For more details click here.
Characterized by the rising efforts put in by industry players and government bodies, satellite launch vehicle market is surely slated to come into its own within the next few years.