Speaking at the Satellite Innovation 2019 conference, Seattle based satellite rideshare firm Spaceflight’s engineering director Philip Bracken stated that changing dynamics of launch vehicle market demand more of “sizeable microsatellites”. The market is witnessing demand for both cubesats and decent sized microsatellites most of which are being built and launched by communications constellation operators. According to Bracken the popularity of these large microsatellites and propulsion systems is growing as they offer a good mixture of flexibility and capability. While some people want to launch satellites weighing 150 kilometer or more several others prefer small cubesats.
He stated that several companies are testing new technology and conducting initial experiments with cubesats before launching large spacecrafts. While low orbit and geostationary Earth orbit are the most popular among satellite launchers people are also seeking paid rides to the moon which is likely to be offered by private operators within a few years. Bracken affirmed that Trans Lunar Injection orbit is fast becoming a high demand market and both small and large vehicles now beginning to cater to that market. Demand for this segment is growing as both NASA and government agencies worldwide are preparing to send their missions to the moon.
Bracken also stated that there is an increased demand to send small communications satellites to geostationary orbit that has prompted an educative study about how to fly both small and large satellites on dedicated and aggregated missions to geostationary orbit. While launch vehicles specifically designed to send satellites weighing 1000 kilograms to low Earth orbit are ready they may not be able to successfully place all into orbit due to rocket constraints. In these circumstances rideshare firms come to their rescue as they join forces with final mile delivery firms to put the satellites into orbit within geostationary belt. Around 140 launch vehicles are being made around the world which is far beyond demand for 90 launches every year.