Small satellites are satellites of low mass and size that are usually under 500 kg. All such satellites can be referred to as ‘small’. However, different classifications are used to categorize these satellites based on mass. Small satellites reduce the huge economic cost of launch vehicle and cost associated with its construction. This has led to increasing participation of emerging economies and startups towards satellite launch for various purposes such as communication and security. For instance, in January 2018, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched new small satellite called Microsat.
The global small satellite market is expected to witness significant growth during the forecast period (2018–2026). The growth is majorly attributed to development of advanced small satellites such as small sat express of HawkEye 360 Inc, GTOSat-Cubesat mission and Asteria small satellite of NASA that are capable of performing a number of operations such as earth observatory and communication.
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Increasing adoption of small satellites in earth observatory for several aspects such as weather forecast and agricultural or waste land management is expected to boost the market growth. Small sat also plays a key role in disaster management. For instance, in November 2018, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched HySIS— the earth observation satellite from its Satish Dhawan Space Center. The satellite is tasked to offer data related to agriculture, forestry, soil survey, geology, coastal zone studies, inland water studies, environmental monitoring, and pollution detection from industries.
Small satellite reduces large economic cost of launch vehicles and cost associated with construction of satellites. For instance, according to University of Colorado at Boulder November 2018 report, a cubesat mission costs around US$ 2 million to build and operate, which is far less than full-sized satellite expanses.
Technical challenges associated with small satellites are lack of sufficient power storage or room for propulsion system, which may hinder the market growth.
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Key players operating in the global small satellite market include, Harris Corporation Airbus Defense and Space, Boeing, Geooptics Inc., Lockheed Martin Corporation, Millennium Space Systems Inc., Northrop Grumman Corporation, OHB AG, Oneweb Ltd, Planet Labs Inc., Sierra Nevada Corporation, Singapore Technologies Engineering Limited, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (Space X), Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., and Thales Alenia Space.
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