A Pathway to Small Satellite Market Growth

  • Nervold A
  • Berk J
  • Straub J
  • et al.
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The United States is experiencing a renaissance in interest in space due to the advent of new lower-cost small spacecraft. New launch entrants, such as Interorbital Systems, promise to lower launch cost levels. Many developers also benefit from free-to-developer launch services from NASA or the ESA. Unfortunately, existing commercial off the shelf (COTS) CubeSat hardware is priced based on amortization of design costs across low-sales volume. A lack of trained staff in any one of the numerous disciplines required for spacecraft design or other resources required for in-house development restricts entry into the small satellite industry to those who can afford expensive COTS hardware or pay for significant design expenses. With entry-level satellite hardware still priced in the six-figure range, limited market growth is expected even as the average CubeSat launch cost continues to decline. A new archetype could lower barriers to entry for building small satellites. A free, public-domain architecture for building a small satellite could allow low-cost, in-house satellite development. Under this paradigm, the expenses for initiating a small satellite program are limited to component and launch vehicle costs. The proposed framework allows for broad access to small satellite hardware, greatly increasing the size of the small satellite developer community. In the context of the small satellite market, freely offering plans to construct an entry-level satellite will court new non-traditional actors into building space hardware for launch on commercial and government small satellite launchers. The low-cost, high flight rate possible with the next generation of launch systems affords operators the freedom to experiment and innovate in a risk-tolerant environment.




Nervold, A. K., Berk, J., Straub, J., & Whalen, D. (2016). A Pathway to Small Satellite Market Growth. Advances in Aerospace Science and Technology, 01(01), 14–20. https://doi.org/10.4236/aast.2016.11002

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