SpaceX won the United States Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) approval to launch more than 1,000 satellites during the next six years and this is only one of the many corporate projects for satellite launches and space exploration.
The Latest Innovations
Since 2007, the satellite industry has grown from a $122 billion business annually to well over a $260 billion. Technological improvements are seen as a major driver of this growth. Satellites have become smaller and more efficient, thanks to a number of technological advances, such as gyroscopes and battery research.
In recent years, there has been more of a focus on launching Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites as opposed to industry standard Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) models.
GEO satellites sit at approximately 22,300 miles above the Earth. These are typically very large satellites that offer a large amount of coverage.
LEO satellites are only 500 to 1,000 miles above the Earth and a great many more LEO satellites are required to provide the same coverage as a the GEO models. However, signal delay is reduced, as the signal has to travel 20 to 40 times less distance. This makes a fleet of LEO satellites far more attractive for communications and internet purposes.
Massive leaps in potential bandwidth mean that satellite technology is now a viable form of high-speed data transmission. From 2012to 2017, the bandwidth for the fastest satellites rose from 120 to 200 Gbps. Satellite bandwidth is expected to hit 1Tbps (Terabit per second) by 2021.
Rocket Technology Improvements
Launching a satellite into orbit is still a challenge for governments and private companies. Rocket technology basically stagnated from the introduction of the Saturn rockets in the 1960s and it was prohibitively expensive to launch cargo into space. However, now that private companies such as SpaceX have entered the game, rocket launch costs have decreased, mostly because the rockets themselves can be reused.
Before SpaceX got into the game, it used to cost $43,180 per pound to send cargo into space. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has brought that cost down to $9,100 per pound. The lower payload cost allows new businesses and less wealthy nations to use satellite technology in ways they could only have dreamed of just a few years ago.
Corporate and Government Cooperation
The relationship between private companies and NASA is rather synergistic. NASA has used SpaceX to send instruments and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) for a fraction of the cost than if NASA themselves had conducted the launch. In fact, governments are private space enterprises’ largest customers.
SpaceX, founded in 2002, pioneered the use of reusable rocket technology, and manufactures some of the best rockets available. In fact, the Falcon 9 was used when the first private spacecraft docked with the ISS.
SpaceX is building an even larger and more powerful rocket called the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) that, theoretically, would be capable of taking both crew and cargo to Mars.
Founded in 2000 by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is focused more on commercial spaceflight tourism. Their proprietary rockets, the New Shephard and New Glen, are quite impressive. New Glenn has twice the available volume of any current launch vehicle and is designed to last for 25 flights, making it a low-cost, high-payload rocket that will certainly be considered for use by space-faring nations across the globe.
There is plenty of room for government- and privately-funded enterprises to work together toward a future of successful space exploration. Through the collaborative work between private companies and the governments of the United States, European Union, Russia, Japan, India, China, and more, even more technological advancements are likely.
AI and Machine Learning Influence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms are two of the hottest topics in the business world today, with global spending on the technologies expected to be more than $35 billion in 2019 and nearly $80 billion by 2022.
AI and machine learning are integral to processing and analyzing satellite imagery. For example, AI programs from Hypergiant sift through mountains of satellite images to track agriculture yields and set growth projections. It also aids the oil and gas industries by using satellite imagery to discover otherwise unknown resource deposits, as well as monitor pipelines and track potential leaks.
As AI and machine learning become even more ubiquitous in the future, a growing number of satellite-based companies will bring competition to the marketplace.
The Future of Space Exploration
The future appears bright for space travel. With the explosion in private companies and growing interest from venture capitalists, space and satellite technology are sure to advance. With lower payload launch costs, that should result in more satellites being launched to orbit.
As satellite technology becomes an even more important part of the world’s telecommunications infrastructure, X2nSat is helping to explore and create that future. Founded 22 years ago, X2nSat offers a wide range of satellite-based telecommunications solutions.
Author Cara Morgan is the marketing coordinator at X2nSat.