PARIS — Leading launch service providers say emerging companies developing a generation of dedicated small-satellite launchers will struggle to compete in the marketplace and will ultimately lose out to the bigger players.
Speaking at the World Satellite Business Week in Paris Sept. 12, top executives of the world’s five leading launch service providers, agreed that the future small-satellite launch market will favor ridesharing and customized services on larger launch vehicles rather than tailored launches by the newcomers.
“At SpaceX, we started with a small launch vehicle,” said SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, whose company has launched its Falcon 9 rocket 13 times since last September’s on-pad fueling accident destroyed a Spacecom’s Amos-6 satellite. “We really wanted to make a business of Falcon 1 … we just could not make it work.”
United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno, whose company operates the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets for a U.S. government-dominated customer base, said some of the newcomers may initially succeed in the market only to be taken down by the big players later on.
“I think it’s a function of time,” Bruno said. “Initially, they will begin and they will try and service the small satellite launch market. ...