Leaders of significant launch companies were skeptical that the demand for small launch vehicles would escalate. These leaders thought the smallsat companies would not efficiently utilize their capacity to offer rideshare missions.
A Euroconsult World Satellite Business Week Virtual Edition discussion revealed that they might have misjudged the smallsats since they are performing exceptionally well at the moment. Tory Bruno, the United Launch Alliance CEO, stated that he has been observing the small launch market is profitable, especially with the introduction of rideshare opportunities. He added that the pandemic had prolonged the completion of mega missions since most workers have limited access to the facilities.
Tory Bruno explained that this market would not be recovering soon since most of the projects were taking shape, and the pandemic disrupted the whole process. Any previous mega mission will now require revitalization or a jumpstart before it starts generating revenues. Launch companies that started as giant firms before the pandemic have taken the impact of it, with some opting to developing smallsats to remain in business. This strategy worked well for those companies that were not rigid to take on this change.
It is currently competing to enter the smallsat market unless a company has strategic plans to unravel. Some companies have fallen to bankruptcy, with many opting for special acquisition programs to regain their potential in the market. Nevertheless, experts argue that the small launch initiatives must be few to accommodate an even expansion of the industry and minimize the debris accumulation in space.
The president of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, stated that the space industry is evolving quickly, and companies ought to develop tough skin or yield into the lack of demand for mega launches. Shotwell added that a minimum of five mega-companies would quickly meet any demand for small payloads.
Nevertheless, Rocket Lab has successfully met the demand for these payloads, having launched over ten missions and counting. However, the chief of Arianespace, Stéphane Israël, explained that Rocket Lab has been dependent on the US government agencies, deeming it unfit for commercial customers who like their operations kept confidential.
The panelists in the discussion agreed that the small satellite launcher vehicles have proved their efficiency in supporting rideshare missions and will be instrumental in the launch of Smallsats’ constellations. In conclusion, SpaceX has been more flexible and versatile in these small satellite launches deploying various satellites to fill the Starlink constellation. Shotwell hopes that the existing companies can meet the demand for such missions.