PARIS - A 10-year forecast of satellite and launcher markets has good news and bad news for hardware manufacturers: There will be many more satellites to build and launch, but the average manufacturing and launch price will increase only marginally, if at all, and may even drop after accounting for inflation.
The 12th World Market Survey of satellite construction and launch trends produced by Euroconsult of Paris looks at the likely government and commercial satellite and launch landscape for the 10 years ending in 2018 and compares it to the 10 years ending in 2008.
Taking all markets - commercial, civil government and military - combined, the average satellite mass is likely to drop by 5 percent, to 4,166 pounds (1,890 kg), in the coming 10 years compared to the previous period, Euroconsult concludes.
But while the average satellite built in the next decade will lose weight, the number of satellites will increase. The study concludes that 1,185 spacecraft will be launched in the next 10 years, a 47 percent increase over the 10 years ending in 2008.
The average satellite price over the next decade will be $99 million, compared to $97 million in the past 10 years. The per-satellite launch price is predicted to remain flat, at $51 million, according to Euroconsult.
The report?s principal author, Rachel Villain, said the increased participation of emerging-market economies such as India and China in the overall space market will continue to exert downward pressure on launch and satellite prices. The figures do not include microsatellites weighing less than 88 pounds (40 kg) at launch, nor do they include classified military satellites, principally from the United States and Russia.
The commercial satellite market does not share all the trends of the overall market, according to Euroconsult. The report assumes that all three mobile voice and data low-orbiting satellite constellations - Globalstar, Iridium and Orbcomm - will be replaced with second-generation systems. Adding these three systems into the general data mix tends to skew the figures because these three companies alone will account for the launch of 130-160 satellites.
For the core commercial market - telecommunications satellites in geostationary orbit - Euroconsult forecasts a growth of 15 percent, to 234, in the number of satellites to be launched between 2009 and 2018.
Instead of getting lighter along with the rest of the satellite market, commercial spacecraft, on average, will continue to get heavier. It is partly for this reason - heavier satellites carry more payload - that the total market value of these commercial satellites will increase by 28 percent over the decade. Even this increase is not much when stretched over 10 years, especially if it is distributed across a satellite population that is growing by 15 percent.
Euroconsult forecasts that the increased average weight of a commercial geostationary satellite will occur especially at the upper end of the scale. Among the current crop of commercial telecommunications satellites under construction are several consumer broadband and mobile voice and data spacecraft weighing well over 13,277 pounds (6,000 kg).
Euroconsult found that 3 percent of commercial satellites currently on order and scheduled for launch by 2011 will weigh more than 14,330 pounds (6,500 kg) at launch. Between 2012 and 2018, the report says, 13 percent of all commercial telecommunications satellites will weigh more than 14,330 pounds, while another 27 percent will weigh between 12,125 pounds and 14,330 pounds (5,500-6,500 kg).
These figures exclude Russian-built satellites that are designed to be launched only by Russian Proton rockets directly into geostationary orbit. Most non-Russian telecommunications satellites are heavier than their Russian counterparts and are placed into a transfer orbit by their launch vehicle. They then use their own fuel to climb into final geostationary position.
If Euroconsult is correct, 40 percent of geostationary satellites ordered between 2012 and 2018 will weigh more than 12,125 pounds, compared to 29 percent in the past three years and just 17 percent earlier this decade.
Satellites in the lowest weight class for geostationary orbit - 1,500 kilograms to 3,500 kilograms - will retain their current market share of 24 percent, according to Euroconsult. The midrange class of spacecraft, between 7,716 pounds (3,500 kg) and 12,125 pounds, will lose market share. Such satellites represent 47 percent of commercial geostationary satellites currently under construction. They are expected to account for 36 percent of the spacecraft built between 2012 and 2018.
- Video - Meet GOCE: Europe's Gravity Probe
- Video - Planet-Hunting Kepler Takes Flight
- Images - 20 Great Rocket Launches