The space industry is undergoing profound changes: the miniaturization of electronic equipment makes it possible to manufacture satellites weighing less than 20kg!
This revolution is leading to the emergence of a new “low-cost” space race that breaks with the traditional pattern of satellite operations.
The space sector is today in full mutation. Traditional satellites now coexist with micro- and nano-satellites, also called “smallsats”, which have emerged due to the miniaturization of electronic components
Miniaturization: a new way to optimize launch costs.
Traditional satellites that used to be the size of a bus are now the size of a washing machine for micro-satellites and a shoebox for nano-satellites. With these new scale models, the change is brutal for the space industry, which is now entering the era of mass production.
For all satellites, the launch represents a significant expense that can account for nearly a third of the total cost. Reducing launch costs is therefore a major competitive lever for small satellites.
Mini-satellites, a promising market.
The miniaturization of satellites is redefining the uses of space, leading to the multiplication of nanosatellite constellation projects. The applications become infinite, but the most lucrative market remains the Internet market targeted by most manufacturers. Indeed, these smallsat represent today a real technological opportunity for the conquest of broadband connectivity, especially for airlines, which are facing increasing user demand.
The perspectives of this thriving new market have led to an influx of new entrants, including many SMEs and start-ups in the mini launch vehicle and nano-satellite industry. However, the market remains dominated by two giants: SpaceX and Arianespace.
SpaceX and Arianespace compete for the small satellite market.
Faced with the decline in orders for traditional satellites, a new commercial war is emerging over the launch of small satellites. The Ariane Group subsidiary is facing increasingly strong competition from Space X. Elon Musk’s company aims to set up a regular launch service for small satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket at prices as low as $2.25 million for 150 kilos sent into low orbit. This is a real upheaval in an industry where traditional satellite launches cost more than $100 million for a single launch.
In response, Arianespace will launch its first shared flight on Ariane 6 by the first semester of 2022, capable of sending a multitude of satellites of various sizes into geostationary orbit in a single launch.
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