The global small satellite market was valued at USD 2.69 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach USD 6.91 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 17.05%, over the forecast period (2018-2023). Small satellites are an emerging class of spacecraft, which are increasingly being preferred because of their significant advantages over traditional satellites. Small satellites typically have shorter development cycles, smaller development teams, and consequently, cost much lesser for launch (as compared to conventional alternatives). Revolutionary technological advancements have facilitated the miniaturization of electronics, which has pushed the invention of smart materials, in turn contributing to reducing the satellite size and mass over time for manufacturers. Owing to the increasing pace of earth observation, space research, and communication, the demand for small satellites has reached a new high. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to launch two briefcase-sized miniaturized satellites of 10 kg each to Mars next year. Small satellites are increasingly being preferred for scientific research, military, and defense sectors, as compared to commercial applications.
More than 500 small satellites are expected to be launched in the next five years. The United States is the most proactive participant in small satellite deployment, followed by Russia, Japan, China, and India.
Most venture companies are showing interest towards making investments in satellites. For instance, Softbank is actively looking for making investments in the satellites industry. Other factors like satellite miniaturization and increasing focus on reducing mission costs are also driving the growth of the market. Lack of dedicated launch vehicles to launch small satellites into space, design-related limitations, and programmatic risks involved in the products are hindering market growth.
Owing to their performance upgrades and potential to deliver an enhanced payload, small satellites find various applications in the defense industry. In addition, the navy and army have been identified to increasingly use small satellites for tactical and low-bandwidth communications. Lockheed Martin recently financed Rocket Lab, a startup based out of New Zealand. The carbon-composite rocket built by Rocket Lab is expected to allow companies to launch small satellites into orbit, for less than USD 5 million. This drastic reduction in cost of deploying small satellites is expected to further reinforce investments being made by defense industries, worldwide, as observation and monitoring become increasingly crucial to mitigate terrorist threats and activities.
New business opportunities and rising demand for satellite-based activates are the primary factors expected to drive the growth of the small satellite market in Asia-Pacific region. India, China, Japan, and Singapore are the major countries leading the small satellite market in this region. With the size of earth observation satellites reducing and the future trend moving toward a constellation of small satellites, India's space agency is making significant strides in the development of small satellites. Recently, the Indian Space Research Organization launched a total of 104 satellites, with 103 of them weighing less than 10 kg each. China is also emerging as another major market for small satellites. Recently, China orbited three small satellites using the Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Launch Center. Moreover, China is likely to fast track its efforts to become the world's most advanced small satellite launch market.
Major Players: Airbus Defense and Space, Thales Group, ST Engineering Limited, Surrey Satellite Technology, Space Exploration Technologies, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Thales Alenia Space, Planet Labs, Millennium Space Systems, Geooptics, Harris Corporation, Spire Global, and Northrop Grumman Corporation, among others
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