The growth of space science and technology worldwide has made an unprecedented impact on human life. Since the beginning, the purpose of all technological advancements, including space-based technology, has been to improve the quality of life.
Continuous research and development are crucial to exploring how space-based technology can further enhance the quality of life. Today, owning the most advanced space centers/technologies and completing successful space missions are crucial power factors for countries across the world. Countries such as the U.S, China, the U.K, Russia, and India are the biggest examples of space power. They are also some of the most economically and socially developed countries.
Therefore, space-based technologies play a crucial role in accelerating the social and economic advancements in human life. Various applications such as climate monitoring, finding climate change solutions through satellite-based advanced data, space technologies enabling connectivity, enhancing security through space-based technologies, etc., are a few such examples. In different ways, space is fueling the global economy.
Currently, the most significant satellite trends that are accelerating human development include space-based radio frequency (RF) and microwave technologies, small satellites, satellite IoT, advanced payload systems, spacecraft propulsion, and very high throughput satellites (VHTS), etc. Due to increasing government and private investments, startups working on satellite manufacturing, operations, and services are laying the foundations for a new age of intelligent satellites.
Trending Space-Based Technologies and their Impact on Human Life
Few of the space-based technologies and their impact are discussed below in detail-
- RF and Microwave Technologies – Radiofrequency is a measurement representing the oscillation rate of electromagnetic radio waves, from frequencies ranging from 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 9 kilohertz (kHz). Microwaves operate on the frequency ranging from 300 megahertz (MHz) to 300 GHz. The antennas and transmitters are used to apply an RF field for the development of various types of wireless broadcasting and communications. Many wireless devices such as cellphones, radio, television broadcast stations, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and satellite communications systems operate in the RF spectrum.
RF and microwave signals play a crucial role in various space operations as they are the backbone of communication between space systems and ground operations. The loss of communication can cause huge damage to the whole mission. Therefore, the RF technologies are required for continuous performance development and technological improvement to perform at an optimal level.
Radio signals also function as a remote sensing tool for scientific observation and environmental monitoring on space science and Earth observation missions. It provides crucial data regarding environmental changes and weather forecasting.
The technological advancement in applications such as real-time imaging, communication, navigation, weather forecasting, broadband, and connectivity are driving the growth of the market.
The global space-based RF & microwave technology market is estimated to reach $14,015.8 million in 2031, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.26% during the forecast period 2021-2031.
- Small Satellites: Small satellites, also known as smallsats, such as nanosatellites and microsatellites, weigh between 1-10kg and 10-100 kg, respectively. These lightweight satellites have revolutionized the space industry as it solves various cost, production, and launch-related problems. Smallsats are effectively replacing the need for large satellites and related infrastructure.
The small satellites are deployed in constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO) to provide global coverage with low latency. It has various significant applications such as Earth observation, enabling better connectivity and communication, climate observation, asset tracking, space exploration, strengthening defense security, and many more.
All these applications are directly related to enhancement in the quality of human life and help in coping with the challenges of the modern world.
- Satellite IoT: The satellite-based Internet of Things (IoT) technology provides extensive coverage compared to the existing terrestrial infrastructure; therefore, the demand for satellite IoT is growing immensely. Governments and private sector investments are investing heavily in satellite technology for connected systems and solutions.
Advanced devices and sensor technologies in satellites empower a new range of cloud and edge computing capabilities. Some of the biggest applications of satellite IoT are in the military and defense fields. For instance, terrestrial communication networks suffer coverage limitations at extreme locations and often depend on land and sea cables. Now, satellite IoT technology is being used as a backbone to the existing terrestrial networks, improving the overall infrastructure.
- Spacecraft Propulsion: High-capacity power and propulsion systems that enable satellites to travel deep into space and perform complex tasks are becoming an important tool for the space industry. As a result, smart innovations such as high-power solar arrays and miniaturization of traditional fuel sources are incorporated readily into new satellites. There is also a shift toward incorporating sustainable propulsion systems onboard.
Amongst the green propulsion technologies, both startups and scaleups are using electric propulsion instead of conventional systems. Other green propulsion technologies include nuclear, solar, water, laser, and even Iodine-based propulsion. For instance, electromagnetic tethering is a green propulsion technology that enables the movement of small satellites without the need for onboard fuel.
The spacecraft propulsions have various complex and important applications such as orbital satellites and spacecraft, interplanetary spacecraft and probes, control of re-entry vehicles, ascent roll control, and stabilization of light to heavy launch vehicles, etc.
- Very High Throughput Satellites (VHTS): One of the most important applications of the satellite is connectivity. As the use of the Internet and mobile connectivity is growing, demand for satellite mobile and broadband communications is surging. The geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite communication providers are working toward increasing their strength and throughput capabilities. This implies that GEO satellites utilize advanced transponders and software-defined radios to transmit data at several hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes per second.
The VHT satellites help in connectivity over land, air, and sea for consumer, commercial, or military applications. With the VTHS, connectivity even at remote locations is now possible. LEO or non-GEO constellations also leverage VHTS data supply with low latency to serve the consumer market with greater flexibility.
Space and communication sectors have witnessed numerous developments in the past years to cater to the rising need and demand for space-based technologies. As discussed, these technologies are directly or indirectly impacting human lives and enhancing their quality. These technologies are proving to be a powerful asset to humankind as it enables the use of space resources that is non-exhaustible. It still leaves the doors open to endless possibilities.