MOUNTAIN VIEW, California – The launch vehicle market is changing rapidly as satellites of various sizes seek transportation to both traditional and nontraditional orbits.
Spaceflight, the Seattle-based rideshare company, notes an increased focus on “more sizeable microsatellites,” Philip Bracken, Spaceflight engineering director, said Oct. 8 at the Satellite Innovation 2019 conference here. “We are seeing not just cubesats but some decent size microsatellites coming together.”
Some satellites being built and launched by communications constellation operators fall into this category. Bracken attributes the growing popularity of large microsatellites to propulsion systems and satellite buses that offer “a good mix of flexibility and capability.”
At the same time, some customers are opting for 150-kilogram or larger satellites while others favor cubesats, Bracken said. A lot of companies, for example, are testing technology and conducting initial studies with cubesats before launching larger spacecraft, he added.
In terms of orbital destinations, low and geostationary Earth orbit remain popular but customers also are seeking rides to the moon. “Trans Lunar Injection orbit is becoming an interesting market,” Bracken said. “We are seeing both small and large launch vehicles start to cater to that.” Demand is growing as NASA and government agencies around the world prepare ...