Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SpaceWorks Nanosat Market Study

SpaceWorks Commercial today released their latest nano/microsatellite market study.  You can download it here.  The study is quite bullish on the growth of Nanosatellites over the next decade with over 20% growth per year through 2014. 

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I am a big advocate for Nanosats and Nanosat launchers .  But I do want to caution us that the authors of this analysis are also developing the Generation Orbit Nanosat launch vehicle.  Some may doubt how unbiased their nanosat market study can be when they are developing a vehcile to launch them.  However, the counter argument could also be, it was reviewing this same market data several months ago (now made public) that led som of the folks over at SpaceWorks to start Generation Orbit in the first place.

Here are a few highlights from the report.  Note many of these comments are direct quotes from the SpaceWorks study itself:
  • 180 known future nano/microsatellites to launch by 2014
  • Range of 100-142 nano/microsatellites (1-50kg) that will need launches globally in the year 2020 (verses 23 in 2011)
    • 32 are estimated to be 11-50kg satellites
    • 68 are estimated to be 1-10kg satellites
    • 75% expected to be foreign or academic payloads
    • Military growth accounts for the majority of the delta between the 100 launch estimate and the 142 launch estimate for 2020
  • New Program list of Known NanoSats:
    • QB50 – 50 Cubesats to be launched between 2013 and 2014
    • NRO Colony I – 12 Cubesats to be launched over next few years
    • NRO Colony II – 20-50 Cubesats to be launched following Colony I
    • ALASA – 36 mirosatellites to be launched beginning in 2015
  • The number satellites launched may not equal the  number of launches since many satellites are multiple-manifested
  • 4.38% growth in Nano/microsatellite launch demand since 2000
  • 22.5% growth (!) in Nano/microsatellite launch demand expected from 2011-2014
  • Market saturation point was set at 150 launches per year (the projected 2030 value) (however SpaceWorks admits that some estimates project CubeSat launches at over 600 per year – well above their 150 launch ceiling)
  • For a fee, Customers can license SpaceWorks more detailed database of nano/microsatellites

Additionally, the SpaceWorks estimates in this market study are based on growth in popularity of Nanosatellites and Microsatellites on existing launch vehicles (with the possible exception of the launches connected with ALASA).  As soon as you CAN launch every week or day on board a new generation of quick response Nanosat launchers, many new uses will be found for this class of satellite.  And many new customers, yet to be identified, will be taking advantage of such frequent access to space.


  1. How much of a concern is the possibility of government or international regulation of nanosats? I know there was a recent report about the amount of "space junk" in orbit and the difficulty NASA and the Air Force have keeping track of it all.

    Or to put it another way, what would happen if a nanosat collided with another satellite? Does that turn into a lawsuit? Is there insurance for that kind of thing?

  2. Hi Colin!

    Just read through your blog from the beginning, love it! I recently started a blog focused on the business side of new space because of general frustration with there being so little out there. So it was great to see someone else already doing it.

    On the market demand for cube sat launches, how do you see the possibility of opening up cubesat missions to other positions such as GEO or even LLO using high Isp Electrospray engines and a 6u? I could see additional market demand from researchers if things went this way. (I suspect NEO would be unfeasible because of the long travel time :/ )