Saturday, June 26, 2010

Demand for a Nano-Launcher?

After my interview with Craig Clark of Clyde Space, we continued our dialogue.  Here is one market demand question, you may find interesting:

Q. Being a business blog, I am always interest in market demand. The US Army’s SMDC Nano-Launch Vehicle program agreed to pay $1M per launch for a responsive 20-kg LEO capability. Using this price point, based on your experience, what annual demand do you see for such a capability should a dedicated nano-launcher become available?
Craig Clark: For the $1m launch vehicle. I’d love to see that happen. I think that whoever develops that system needs to aim to carry a 50kg payload into orbit, otherwise the cost is still too high ($250k per 3U CubeSat is too much). My main concern is price creep. SpaceX wanted to provide a $1m small satellite launch vehicle, this quickly turned into a $4m vehicle and now it is about $10m per launch. I am really interested to see how Virgin Galactic get on with their plans to air-launch small satellites using the White Knight 2 – this could be the way forward for small sats.   In terms of demand, we will need this type of launch vehicle in order to place nanosatellites in the complimentary orbits required for constellations, so demand will be high IMO. It’s difficult to say exactly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we are looking at multiple launches per month, especially if the business model is correct (i.e. no launch campaign, standardization, etc.).

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