Human curiosity about exploring space and several breakthrough discoveries in technology have led to the emergence of the billion-dollar space industry. As of 2019, the space industry was estimated to be valued at $366 billion. The space industry mainly includes satellite manufacturing, launches, space missions, associated services, and manufacturing ground equipment.
Satellites and space technology have enabled several groundbreaking innovations in various areas such as communication, Earth observation and remote sensing, scientific research, biological experiment, technology demonstration and verification, academic training, mapping, and navigation.
Government and private space organizations across the world are investing heavily in the space industry. Owing to the constantly increasing demand for better communication and connectivity and the rising development of more cost-effective technologies, there has been significant growth in the global space economy.
According to the BIS Research report on the global nanosatellite and microsatellite market, more than 6,500 satellites, including nano-, micro-, and pico-satellites, are expected to be launched during the forecast period 2020-2026. The industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.86%.
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What are Nanosatellites and Microsatellites?
With the constantly increasing demand and applications, the manufacturers are shifting their focus from heavy and large-sized satellites to small and cost-effective satellites. The nanosatellites weigh between 1 kilogram to 10 kilograms, whereas the microsatellites weigh between 11 kilograms to 100 kilograms. They help in developing more efficient and cost-effective space program solutions.
The nanosatellite and microsatellite constellations improve global wi-fi connections, surveillance, navigation, and communication. The satellites also enable better functioning of various technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, and migration to streaming broadband.
Benefits of Nanosatellites and Microsatellites
1. Convenient and cost-effective: Advancements in satellite and component miniaturization have resulted in low manufacturing costs and increased affordability of nanosatellites and microsatellites for research and academic purposes. The miniature satellites operate in the same capacity as the conventional heavy satellites while costing significantly less.
Due to their small size, these satellites also have a more convenient manufacturing process compared to conventional satellites. They also have a shorter lifespan of only one year, significantly reducing risk management during the launch phases. Over the coming years, component miniaturization is expected to integrate advanced subsystems into nanosatellites and microsatellites.
2. Better space opportunities for developing countries: Financing space programs prove to be a great challenge for developing countries. Challenges such as the high costs of manufacturing conventional satellites and the required supporting infrastructure were significant roadblocks. However, the low cost and better efficiency of miniature satellites have empowered many countries with space technology. It provides better opportunities to launch independent programs that help technological research and development in developing countries.
Although North America currently has the biggest market share in the nanosatellite and microsatellite market, there is significant growth in the space industry worldwide.
3. More compatible with the latest technology: The satellites need to be replaced constantly due to their shorter lifespan. This allows the scientists to integrate each replica with the updated technology, enabling satellites to provide better services with the help of the latest technologies available in the market.
4. Minimized risks: The satellites are launched in constellations. So, even if one satellite stops functioning for unforeseen reasons, the other satellites in the group keep working without any damage until the unusable replica gets replaced in orbit. It significantly reduces the risks of complete mission failure.
While in the case of large satellites, if there is some malfunctioning in the system, it could lead to catastrophic losses.
5. Flexibility in services: With a more convenient manufacturing process and low costs, the miniature satellites offer great adaptability and flexibility to implement new functionalities and services. Each satellite replaced in a constellation is an opportunity for enhanced services and solutions.
The global satellite market has dramatically shifted from conventional large-sized satellites to small-sized nanosatellites and microsatellites. The industry’s growth is primarily driven by its applications in communication, Earth observation, and remote sensing.
According to the BIS research report, Earth observation and remote sensing applications had the highest market share of 49.42%, followed by the communication application. In 2019, the Earth observation and remote sensing market reported revenue generation of 139.9 million, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.86% to reach $844.4 million by 2026.
In the coming years, the demand for compact and lightweight satellites will only increase as many latest technologies such as 5G internet, enhanced global positioning system (GPS), and autonomous vehicles will depend on the services of these satellites for better functionalities.
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