By: Gloria Garcia-Cuadrado / Celestia Aerospace Co-Founder and Chief Vision Officer
First, it was the land. Second, came the oceans. Third came the sky. Now is the time for Space. We are facing the next exploitation and commercialization era; a new playground being open after decades of venturing for research.
To date, space access has been restricted to big Aerospace Consortiums and Space Agencies. To this day, only a few hundred people have been in space and only a few countries have the ability to launch something into space. But winds of change are shaking the aerospace industry. Necessary and quite logical, I must admit, winds of change.
Anything is undergoing miniaturization, any piece of technology is evolving towards more efficiency and towards lower cost and mass production. We at Solaino Technologies with our partner Celestia Aerospace have a clear vision this tendency has to arrive to the aerospace industry, to completely shake and reshape for the better, an already restricted and extremely slow pace industry that has somehow lagged behind.
We have identified two mean keys to help bring in the necessary change. One is the use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies, technologies already being used for example in your smart phone and other mobile devices. The second one, is to apply lean manufacturing technologies to allow for satellite mass production, moving from a scenario where satellites are “hand manufactured”, towards a scenario closer to the automotive, were satellites can be mass produced at a rate of hundreds a year. These will in turn, allow to meet the demand for large constellations of satellites offering communications and Earth observation services.
Just to illustrate the interest in this domain, flagship examples of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband constellations, such as SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper, account for almost half of the projected demand over 2021-2030. Also, the sector is experiencing increasing multi-million and multi-billion-dollar investments in various ventures, such as Google’s acquisition of Skybox Imaging for $500 million; or the successful investment round of Planet Labs for more than 100 million, to mention just a few, which confirm the commercial sector’s continued interest in the small satellite industry.
Nanosatellites allow to capitalize on this opportunity. Nanosats, for short, are small-sized, low-weight (up to 1,33 Kg) satellites that fit on the palm of your hand. They are very similar in size to a Rubik’s cube we all have played with during infancy. More generally, based on mass-range, the small satellite market is segmented into five main categories: minisatellites (100 to 500 Kg); microsatellites (10 to 100 Kg); nanosatellites (1 to 10 Kg); pico-satellites (100 g to 1 Kg); and femtosatellites ( 10 g to 100 g), with varying characteristics and capabilities.
According to data of main small sat industry consultancy firms, the small satellite market is expected to grow from USD 4.064 million in 2021, to USD 7.245 million in 2026, witnessing a CAGR of 14,62% within the forecast timeframe (2021-2026), with a need for 14.000 small sats launches before 2030.
Both in the development of nanosats with myriad of applications, as well as in the launch capacity, is where really the opportunity is. As compared to conventional satellites, small sats have shorter development cycles and smaller development teams, which correspondingly decreases both the manufacturing and the launching and operating cost.
The numbers show the extremely good performance of a sector and all this under the current restricted circumstances, where there is a bottleneck in launching opportunities for small satellites: They have to fly as secondary payloads to the large satellites which monopolize mission priorities and experience long mission development times, thus creating scarce launch opportunities and long launching waiting times of up to 1,5 to 2 years. Small sats have to book secondary payload slots on larger launchers because flying a large launcher with just a small sat is not efficient, it is like fleeting an Airbus 380 for just a couple of passengers. This does not happen. So, small sats have to wait.
However, the market for small satellites increases year after year and projections are encouraging. And all this, I must emphasize, under the current restricted-access conditions. Therefore, the development of a specific launcher will unblock the currently “retained” market, and unleash it, allowing it to boom.
This is what we want. This is our reason to be. We don’t want you to be limited. Space is your next stop. We will democratize space access. Space should no longer be the playground for big aerospace consortiums, but SMEs, and underdeveloped countries, and research and education entities, should benefit also directly from space. We offer full cycle space services based on nanosatellites, covering development; launch with our dedicated nanosats launcher, Sagittarius; and full operation.
Space is also an empowering sector: if you can reach space, you can do anything, being a powerful marketing benchmark for your company: if your company has reached space, it has excellence, it forms part of the elite.
We explain to you how your company can benefit from access to space. We design and build your nanosatellite. We launch and operate it. We both enjoy the process and learn through it. And you have a taste of space having a seat onboard our proprietary launcher, Sagittarius, an aircraft operating from any airport worldwide, launching directly to space: you can have a seat on board and take an active part in the experience of launching your own nanosatellite. You then go back to your office, switch on the computer, enter the application, and hit the “receive data” icon to download your mission data, in the data format you want to, in the data format you need to.
You are now personally connected to space, to your origin: We all come from space, we are star dust. You have now a feeling of what space is. And you are no longer limited to be just earthbound: the skies are now open for you. You have proven you can reach space. And you can achieve whatever you want to.
This is our Why. This is what we believe in. This is the necessary future we are contributing to build.