Table of Contents
•Major space trends are expected to enhance existing space capabilities at the upstream and downstream levels.
•More upstream technology innovations will result in an increase in downstream satellite-based services, contributing to the space industry’s growth in the coming decade.
•High-throughput satellites will remain prominent in the coming decade, feeding into diverse satellite communication capabilities, including commercial and military networks.
•Small satellites will see increased application in the coming decade and beyond as customers who cannot afford large satellites will seek affordable small-scale satellite capabilities.
•Satellite imagery-based analytic services will see a significant swell due to the quickly increasing trend of data-driven decision making and the relaxation of restrictions on the sale of high-resolution satellite imagery.
•Robotic in-orbit servicing technology will gain prominence as the need for optimizing space real estate grows along with the need for enhanced mission life of satellites in orbit. Small satellite technologies will feed into these solutions as space programs gear up to bring dead satellites back to life.
Top 10 Space Trends for the Coming Decade
1. Augmented Satellite-based Navigation Systems
Regional satellite-based navigation systems such as the GAGAN (India) and MSAS (Japan) continue to evolve towards being an integral part of user environments. These systems utilize existing navigational space assets to provide regional, customized navigational services with improved accuracy and secure signals. With multiple global navigational satellite systems (GNSS) being launched, end users have ever-growing reliance on and need for secure and accurate signals, driving demand for augmented satellite services for their positioning, navigation, and timing. Augmented satellite-based navigation systems enable new applications across existing and evolving markets, such as precision farming, oil and gas exploration, and fleet management.
2. High-throughput Satellite Communication Services
Evolving satcom requirements include real-time connectivity and imagery streaming, which calls for high-throughput satcom connectivity. Many high-throughput satellites, such as the Intelsat EpicNG and the Inmarsat Global Xpress, are being launched, supporting higher data rate streaming both in the civil and military domains. Consequent near real-time, high-speed connectivity is leading the way for global access to broadband Internet access, as well as increased capacity for HDTV in the commercial domain, and high-definition video streaming for the warfighter.
3. Space Tourism/Commercial Spaceflight
As suborbital space flights become a reality for the common man, companies are further trying to establish controlled orbital human spaceflight opportunities. Multiple participants offer space tourism business services, marking the birth of a new commercial aerospace industry that is embracing future technologies and shows potentially promising revenues.
4. Small Satellite Clusters Replacing Large Satellites
The space industry battles with the challenge of a prohibitively expensive technology. Small satellite clusters are positioned to overcome this challenge, offering similar capabilities to larger satellites at a considerably lower cost. Reduced financial risk and responsive launch provisions are driving end users to consider this concept as a real alternative to high-cost, larger satellite constellations, which will lead to wider adoption of existing and evolving satellite-based applications, and potentially new users.
5. Satcom in Commercial Aviation
Digital natives of today and tomorrow are driving demand for onboard connectivity services. Airlines are increasingly relying on satcom connectivity for automated flight operations and onboard Wi-Fi/mobile usage. Satcom is critical to the adoption of next-generation integrated communications solutions, ensuring improved safety and efficiency, both operational and financial.
6. 3-D Printing for Space Applications
3-D printing is gaining traction in the aerospace industry, and satellites seem to be bucking the trend. The somewhat lower financial risk of small satellites makes them a likely test object. Additive manufacturing is expected to add value through cost savings to space programs and space application manufacturing. This trend is expected to reduce the production timelines of space programs while providing an effective in-space manufacturing capability.
7. Reusable Launch Vehicles for Cost-efficient Space Logistics
Access to space launch-ability has long been a thorn in the satellite industry’s path to dominance in the connectivity world. Reusable launch vehicles are seen as a panacea to this challenge. Industry participants such as SpaceX and XCOR are working on cost-effective yet reliable launch vehicles that can be reused with minimal rework, aimed at achieving affordable space missions.
8. All-electric Propulsion Systems for Satellites
Though the technology is not new, electric propulsion systems are eventually expected to be the preferred option over chemical propulsion systems. Electrical propulsion systems have generally been used for attitude control (station-keeping), but now operators are looking to evolve them so that satellites with an all-electric propulsion system will have long-term, orbital-maneuver capability that will eventually enhance mission life and subsequent return on investments. This trend is looking to establish a niche, all-electric satellite market in the coming decade.
9. Satellite Imagery-based Services
With reduced export control provisions on high-resolution satellite imagery, the processed satellite imagery business is expected to grow. All consumer-accessible maps and imagery services will grow in terms of quality and offerings, attempting to establish improved map/navigation services via smartphones. This trend will positively affect the extensive use of Earth observation data by evolving the GIS-data-driven disaster prediction systems market and allied data services market.
10. Robotic Servicing Technologies for Space Applications
This is an evolving application that seeks to establish robotic refueling and servicing of spacecraft that are either beyond the reach for humans or not originally designed to be serviced. Successful implementation of such technologies will enhance the mission-extendibility options for space assets and also as a means to perform space-service operations that cannot involve humans. This trend will increase the mission lifespan of key GEO satellites and create more sustainable space real estate for future satellite missions.
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