An array of new agile launch capabilities being developed by the commercial sector to send satellites into orbit could provide added resiliency to the U.S. space architecture.
Multiple existing and new industry players are developing dedicated small satellite launch vehicles to address growing requirements, according to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan titled, “Small Satellite Launch Services Market, Quarterly Update Q1 2018, Forecast to 2030.” The firm predicted a launch demand for over 11,600 small satellites over the next 12 years, with a projected revenue of $119 billion. The existing rideshare launch capacity will not be adequate enough to meet future needs, the report said.
Over the past decade, a wave of new companies — benefiting from the deep pocketbooks of Silicon Valley billionaires — have invested in developing rapid, mobile and affordable launch systems, bringing a new momentum to the commercial market.
Entrepreneurs such as Amazon leader Jeff Bezos; Elon Musk, who co-developed PayPal and launched Tesla; Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen; and Virgin founder Richard Branson have created their own rapid launch companies — Blue Origin, SpaceX, Stratolaunch and Virgin Orbit, respectively. Their resources “have allowed their companies to make significant progress and push through the ‘Valley of Death’ where it might not have been possible if you had to justify the bottom line to a board of directors,” said Randolph Kendall, vice president of launch program operations at the Aerospace Corp., during a panel discussion at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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Insertion Capability - Small-Satellite / Payload to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO)
Haas 2CA Single-Stage Launch Vehicle, ARCA Space Corp.
LauncherOne LEO Launch Vehicle and Cosmic Girl Air-Launch Platform, Virgin Orbit
Phantom Express Reusable Space Plane and Single-Stage Launch Vehicle, Boeing
Starlord Two-Stage Launch Vehicle, Rocketstar
Stratolaunch Air-Launch Platform, Stratolaunch, and Pegasus Three-Stage Small Payload Air-Launch Vehicle, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems
Insertion Capability - Small-Satellite or Heavier Payload to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) or Further
Atlas V Configurable Three-Stage Launch Vehicle, ULA
Falcon 9 Two-Stage Reusable Launch Vehicle, SpaceX
Falcon Heavy Partially-Reusable Two Plus-Stage Launch Vehicle, SpaceX
New Glenn Two/Three-Stage w/Reusable First-Stage Launch Vehicle, Blue Origin
New Sheppard Reusable VTVL Single-Stage Launch Vehicle, Blue Origin
Vector-R Two-Stage Small Payload Launch Vehicle, Vector
Vector-H Two-Stage Small Payload Launch Vehicle, Vector
Vulcan Centaur and Vulcan ACES Two-Stage Launch Vehicles, ULA