The global small satellite market valued at $3.25 billion in 2020 is expected to skyrocket to $13.7 billion by 2030 with a Compound Annual Growth rate of 16.4%, according to statistics. This could also mean a dent in the US GDP. 

Small satellites “are low-cost alternatives that have allowed commercial enterprises, non-profit groups, and educational institutions to conduct missions in low-Earth orbit.” 

These small satellites have been revolutionary because they enable various scientific investigations and technology demonstrations to be carried out on time at a fraction of the cost that would usually be sent using regular-sized satellites. They also require smaller launch vehicles and even be used along with larger launch vehicles. They also use low-cost, reliable hardware and technology in making the satellites.

These are a few main reasons contributing to their rising demand. Other factors that might contribute are the demand for high-resolution imaging services and the need for more satellite data.

Birds-1 first cubesat deploy. (Jack Fischer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

There are also reports that small satellites’ “ride-sharing launch programs” allow sending multiple satellites into higher orbits with less time. This is because they can “easily fit into ride-sharing payloads along with other objects,” eliminating the need for extensive propulsion systems.

Small Satellites for Space Force

Jason Kim, chief executive officer of Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing Company, believes that the small satellite industry has come a long way over the last decade. Millennium is a company focused on national security space missions. They deliver small satellite prototypes and constellations that can be used in missile warning and defense, ISR, advanced space, and science across different orbits. According to him, the small satellite industry has come a long way,

Millennium flew a small satellite – Rapid Pathfinder – about a decade ago – when small sats weren’t really a consideration. Fast forward to today and we’re now in a “buy-in-bulk” environment for small sats. There’s a much greater use for smaller satellites today because we’ve been able to advance technology to the point we are building high-performance small sats. That’s why many architectures are relying on proliferated constellations.

Reports say that the small satellite market’s major players at the moment are Thales Group (France), L3Harris Technologies (US), Honeywell International Inc. (US), Lockheed Martin (US), and Northrop Grumman (US), and Airbus (Germany).