Continual decreases in average satellite mass along with the increase in the capabilities of nano- and microsatellites to cater to multiple use cases is changing the space business in every possible way. The nano- and microsatellite market basically analyzes the market for satellites in 1–100 kg range, wherein the 1–10 kg satellites have been termed nanosatellites and the 11-100 kg microsatellites. These satellites are used for several applications such as communication, earth observation, remote science, scientific research, biological experiments, academic training, and reconnaissance by defense, intelligence, civil, commercial, or government users.
Traditionally, the expenses required for conventional remote-sensing and earth-observation satellite missions was close to U.S. $500 million, which made such missions out of bounds for a huge portion of interested space researchers, but due to recent advancements as well as miniaturization in space technology, most of the nano/microsatellite missions cost below $20 million. With affordability being the key driver for most of the innovations taking place in developing countries, the trend toward smaller and more economical satellites is expected to keep on rising.
Major developments have taken place in the following markets:
- Advancements in space logistics companies, specializing in the launch of CubeSats, nanosats, microsats, and constellations of small satellites. Companies such as Spaceflight Services help organizations to launch small satellites into space by offering a “one-stop-shop” service that manifests, certifies, and integrates multiple small satellites onto launch vehicles. Spaceflight Services contracts excess capacity on its worldwide network of partner launch vehicles, a system that enables cost-effective launch services for small-payload customers while securing additional revenue for the launch service provider.
- Several shortcomings such as limited on-board power provisions for the support of hardware components, low accuracy in attitude knowledge and control required for remote sensing as well as command and data-handling capabilities in missions based on nano- and microsatellites have already been addressed, resulting in huge expansion of capabilities the of nano- and microsatellites. In the near future, such satellites are expected to be used widely across the majority of the application areas, wherein the requirement previously was large satellites.
During the period 2014–2019, the total number of nano- and microsatellites expected to be launched is more than 1,000, and players, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Surrey Satellite Technologies, Sierra Nevada Corp, Clyde Space, and Planet Labs are among the most dominating in this rapidly growing market place. Also, increasing interest of venture capitalists in space exploration technologies along with the growth in investments from Silicon Valley has increased the demand of space business in recent years, and venture backed companies such as GeoOptics, Nanorack, PlanetLabs, and Planetory Resources are gaining traction and are expected to increase their share of market in the coming years.
The nano and microsatellites market is expected to generate huge revenue pockets in the Americas, particularly in the U.S.; Asia-Pacific; and Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Countries such as Japan, Korea, China, and India along with many others have already started investing a significant amount in space businesses which in turn makes the Asia-Pacific market the most promising in the long term.
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