The launch industry has traditionally been dominated by large, well-established companies from the aerospace industry. They build according to specifications from governmental bodies even if they subsequently use their rockets for commercial purposes.
However, both this area and satellite manufacturing have experienced significant changes in recent years. The main disruption is caused by SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Since 2010, it has been successfully using its Falcon 9 rocket (whose first stage is reusable) among other developments. The company has significantly reduced launch costs and become quite agile. In 2018, 21 launches were successfully completed. The company boasted the most launches in 2018 and is also willing to revolutionize the segment of heavy launchers with the Falcon Heavy (operational in 2019 ) and Starship/Super Heavy, their super heavy launcher, in the long-term. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezo’s company, is also working on a heavy launcher. The New Glenn, whose reusable first stage will allow for a reduction in launch costs, will not be operational until 2021.
On the other side of the market, another company is rewriting the rules.Rocket Lab promises frequent–though not necessarily cheaper–launches in their Electrón rocket. Any client who has a satellite of up to 225 kilos to launch into Low Earth Orbit can have an Electron rocket almost immediately. The company can produce up to one rocket per week in their factory. The Electron rocket was operational in 2018 and the company’s 2019 goal is to increase their launch cadence to a maximum of one per month. This will be easier to accomplish once they open their second launching facility in the United States; the first is in New Zealand.
The fastest-growing segment is, in fact, launchers for small satellites. There’s a myriad of companies working on their own launchers, such as PLD Space in Spain. Their Miura 5, whose first flight test is scheduled for the end of 2021, has been picked by the European Space Agency as the future European microsatellite launcher. There are also dozens of Chinese companies working on this segment, now that authorities have opened up the space industry.
With 114 orbital launches in 2018–the most since1990- this segment of the space industry is worth $27 billion. Launch costs are falling, and estimates show that demand will continue to rise because there will be an increasing number of customers that can afford launches. Estimates vary, but some say the segment could grow eightfold by 2040 (Bank of America Merril Lynch) or twofold (Morgan Stanley).
It is estimated that the market could be worth over 10.3 billion euros by the end of 2019.
According to some estimates, the market may surpass €10 billion by the end of 2019.