The space industry nowadays has undergone a major transformation as the fleet of young companies are entering the US$400 billion space economy. The last decade has seen a tremendous shift into this sector with a number of newer companies seeking to capitalize on profit in different markets and more ambitious projects. While the space sector plays a significant role in modern societies to function efficiently and drive economic growth, the industry is expected to reach US$1 trillion by 2030.
Initially, space exploration was the provenance of governments, the only entities that could afford complex, risky endeavors that had no basis in profit generation. However, with passing times and surging technological innovations, all types of companies now are pursuing many different business concepts. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, Virgin Galactic, among others are some of the most talked names playing a key role in the space sector.
Most companies are focused on taking advantage of the technology of CubeSats and SmallSats, while some are interested in robotic servicing.
So, let’s have a look at the top trends redefining the world of space.
NASA’s Mars Mission Takes Off
The US agency NASA is set to roll out its another trip to Mars, launching Mars 2020 space mission. Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by the agency’s Mars Exploration Program with a planned launch on 17 July 2020. The rover is based on the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover configuration. It is car-sized, nearly 10 feet long, with no arms, 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall (about 3 meters long, 2.7 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall). The Mars 2020 rover will carry a suite of instruments, which is designed to find out evidence of past microbial life, gather samples to be sent back to Earth in the future and collect data that will help enable eventual human exploration.
Suborbital Space Tourism Will Heat Up
Today, the orbital space tourism industry is gaining a lot of buzz as companies are trying hard to make space tourism a profitable proposition. In this way, companies are developing suborbital vehicles designed to take passengers to an altitude of 100 km. The space tourism came into the scenario at the end of the 1990s when a deal occurred between the Russian company MirCorp and the American company Space Adventures Ltd. MirCorp was a private venture in charge of the space station Mir. Currently, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are betting hard on space tourism.
U.S. National Security Space Launch program
The US is making substantial efforts to pursue a strategy that can ensure continued access to space for national security missions. The big four in the U.S. launch industry, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, hope to be one of two providers that will receive five-year contracts later this year in order to launch national security payloads starting in 2022. Moreover, ULA, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman are pitching newly designed vehicles for the competition, all projected to fly for the first time in 2021.
The ESA’s ExoMars Mission
The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to launch its life-hunting rover this year, the ExoMars mission. This will be Europe’s first planetary rover and is scheduled to launch in July 2020. The ExoMars programme consists of two missions, the first, the Trace Gas Orbiter, launched in 2016, while the second, comprising a rover and surface platform, planned for 2020. The ESA’s ExoMars program is a series of missions designed to understand the life on Mars.
SpaceX to Double Its Launch Pace
California-based private rocket manufacturer SpaceX has announced a record-breaking launch manifesto for 2020. In December last year, SpaceX completed its final mission of the year, with the successful launch of JCSAT-18/Kacific1 from Cape Canaveral, FL. It was the company’s 13th launch of 2019. Now the company, in 2020, is set to smash its previous record of launches in a year, which was 21 in 2018. And By 2023, SpaceX wants to launch 70 missions a year from its two Florida launch sites at the Kennedy Space Center and nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, using Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
China Continues to Lead the World in Launch Rate
Over the past couple of years, China has been leading the world in orbital launches. Now the country is trying to attempt major space exploration missions and test new rockets in 2020. The country’s main space contractor is intended to carry out over 40 launches this year, including lunar, interplanetary and space infrastructure missions. As the country is leading the global launch tables for the past two years, the expanding activity reflects rising ambitions in exploration, remote sensing, commercial constellations and new areas including low-Earth orbit satellite internet access.
The Growing Race for Constellation Deployments
Earlier this year, SpaceX became the operator of the world’s largest active satellite constellation, with 180 satellites orbiting the planet. This is a mere starting point for Starlink, SpaceX’s ambitious project to provide internet capabilities to every inch of the globe. The company wants the option to launch up to 42,000 satellites over the next decade to get that kind of connectivity. On the other hand, OneWeb has successfully launched 34 small broadband satellites in February, vying the race with SpaceX to deliver high-speed internet across the globe.
Telesat LEO Constellation
Telesat, the Ottawa, Canada-based satellite communication company, could start some services from its constellation of LEO satellites by the end of 2022. The first craft will launch later in 2021 or early 2022 although final decisions as to the extent of the service are yet to be made. Indeed, orders for the construction of the fleet have yet to be placed and will be determined around mid-year. According to Telesat, the planned constellation of 300 satellites will be in orbit during 2023, and the design calls for the craft which are larger and more complex than those being orbited by SpaceX’s Starlink.
First Flight for Ariane 6 and Vega C
Ariane 6 and Vega C, Europe’s next-gen launch vehicles developed and manufactured by ArianeGroup, is scheduled for the first flight in 2020. The both missions are conducted by Arianespace, where Ariane 6 with 30 small broadband satellites for OneWeb, and Vega C with the Italian Space Agency’s Lares-2 science mission. Ariane 6 is designed to cost 40 percent to 50 percent less than the Ariane 5, and Vega C is intended to lift around 700 kilograms more than Vega to low Earth orbit.