The world record for the number of small satellites launched in a single calendar year was broken in the third quarter of 2017, according to the second Small Satellite Marketing Intelligence Report published by the Satellite Applications Catapult.
In the period, July to September 2017, 84 small satellites (weighing less than 500kg) launched globally, taking the year’s total, so far, to 273, exceeding the previous record of 202, achieved in 2014.
Florian Deconinck, the Report’s co-author, and Advanced Concepts Lead, Small Satellites & Future Constellations at the Catapult, said: “By the end of 2017, we expect the total number of small satellites launched to exceed 300, based on planned launches. This indicates just how much this part of the sector is growing, and we are estimating that from 2017-2020, at least 1,300 small satellites will be launched.”
Stuart Martin, CEO, Satellite Applications Catapult, added: “The Report clearly reflects the growth of the smallsat sector and its disruptive potential. The UK is strategically positioned to be one of the leading countries in this market, by developing a sustainable ecosystem from small satellite manufacturing and launch capability through to data exploitation and commercial applications.”
The Report also analyses the small launch vehicles sector, which is considered an important enabler for more frequent access to dedicated orbits for small satellites.
These vehicles, defined as offering a capability of no greater than 500kg to Low Earth Orbit, have the potential to address the proliferation of small satellites by offering more flexible and responsive launch services. 65% of small launch vehicles will attempt vertical launch methods, 11% are pursuing horizontal launch (including air-launch), and 10% are pursuing other launch methods, such as balloon assisted. For 14% of the small launch vehicles, the launch method is unknown.
Accounting for all types of satellite – small and large – 2017 is a record year for the number of satellites launched since the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched in 1957.