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Forecast: Mega-constellations to boost satellite activity

July 27, 2020

By Chris Forrester

Paris-based consultancy Euroconsult says that despite the virus pandemic it still expects around 1000 smallish satellites to be launched each year throughout this decade.

The drive will largely come from would-be broadband suppliers with mega-constellation operators accounting for around half of all launches and one-fifth of market value.

Euroconsult’s forecast (contained within Prospects for the Small Satellite Market) ,suggests that two mega-constellations will account for half of the smallsats to be launched between 2020 and 2029, yet only account for one fifth of the total smallsat market value due to economies of scale, mass manufacturing and batch launches. The report also addresses the impact of Covid-19 on the small satellite industry and provides updated analysis of the ongoing uncertainties related to the pandemic, smallsat constellations and the OneWeb bankruptcy, despite its recent acquisition.

“The 2020s are predicted to be the decade of small satellites with an annual average of 1,000 smallsats to be launched. By comparison, 2019 had the highest number of smallsats to date, with 385 smallsats launched. These spacecraft generated $2.8 billion of market value in 2019, of which 70 per cent for manufacturing and 30 per cent for launch. From 2020 to 2029, the smallsat market value is projected to reach $51 billion, of which $33 billion for manufacturing and $18 billion for launch. This is more than four times the market size of the previous decade,” said Euroconsult.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have a significant impact on the industry. This impact will however vary depending on the size and nature of stakeholders. While many early-stage commercial new entrants will fail to raise funding and deploy their constellations, the two market leaders, SpaceX and Amazon, have been strengthened by the pandemic,” said Alexandre Najjar, Senior Consultant at Euroconsult. “While the commercial sector (Starlink and Kuiper excepted) will decrease compared to previous years due to a Covid-19-induced market rationalization, growth in government smallsat projects is accelerating as nations now recognise the potential and cost savings enabled by the smallsat form, both for civilian and military use cases.”

“In the coming decade, smallsat market growth will be dominated by communication satellites with nearly 5,700 units forecasted for launch. In contrast, Earth Observation satellites will decrease in market share but will nonetheless triple in terms of units, with 1,520 anticipated. Nonetheless, high levels of uncertainty remain as the smallsat market is, by definition, very volatile. The failure (or market entry) of a single constellation may represent hundreds of satellites of variation,” added Euroconsult.

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