The reusable launch vehicles market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of more than 5% during the forecast period.
- The demand for satellite networks and services for both commercial and defense applications has increased. This has resulted in a resultant rise in satellite launches for military surveillance, communication, navigation, earth-observation, and scientific research, thereby creating a parallel demand for reusable satellite launch vehicles to minimize the associative launch costs of the market.
- Since the market is capital intensive, it is primarily governed by several macroeconomic factors, thereby a period of economic downturn fostered by an uncertain event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can deleteriously affect the growth prospects of the market.
- Trends, such as the emergence of green propulsion technologies, and the ongoing miniaturization of satellites, are envisioned to have a profound effect on the design aspect of the reusable satellite launch systems.
Key Market Trends
Increasing Demand for Multirole Satellites Driving Launches
The demand for satellite networks and services for commercial applications has increased. The entry of companies, such as Google and Facebook, with commercial services demanding satellite bandwidth and networks has also aided the market. Moreover, the growing utilization of commercial satellite platforms for dual (military and civil) purposes has boosted the market. Satellite communications are envisioned to be an essential part of the 5G infrastructure. To provide seamless connectivity between terrestrial and satellite, the satellite transport conduit is being integrated into the overall communication map. This will result in new opportunities for extending satellite services in urban and rural areas aimed to cover the existing white zones and ensure a seamless connectivity plan for a variety of users including the emergency services. This has driven the subsequent annual launches of satellites and has created a parallel demand for RLVs to achieve orbital deployment at a fractional cost compared to expendable conventional launch vehicles.
Europe is Expected to Generate the Highest Demand During the Forecast Period
Europe has continuously been at the forefront of space exploration and currently has the second-largest public space budget in the world with numerous active satellite R&D programs and manufacturing facilities spanning different European countries. The European Union (EU) has plans to invest around USD 13.74 billion towards space-related activities, a major part of which would be directed towards the satellite industry. At present, Europe has around 33 satellites in orbit and envisions to increase its tally by adding another 30 satellites by 2030, which represents major opportunities for the RLV manufacturers and operators in the region. Several regional market players are experimenting with the technology to fabricate sophisticated components for satellites. The Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator (ETID) program is part of the ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Program and is aimed at enhancing the future competitiveness of launchers manufactured in Europe. ArianeGroup, its lead contractor in Germany, initiated the hot-fire testing campaign in June 2018. As of November 2018, ArianeGroup was conducting hot-fire tests on the ETID configured with the single-piece injector head, which was 3D printed from Inconel 718. The injector head replaces more than 200 individual pieces and thus simplifies the production and assembly of future rocket engines. Also, in December 2018, the company began testing the LOx and methane-based engine as part of a future-engine development contract awarded to it by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in June 2017. The program envisions to develop future liquid-propellant engines at one-tenth of the current manufacturing costs of Vulcain 2 type engine. The EU has also proposed the RETro propulsion Assisted Landing Technologies (RETALT) project as pear of its Horizon 2020 endeavor. The EU has invested around EUR 3 million towards the project aimed to investigate and develop key technologies to land rockets backwards.
The prominent vendors, such as ArianeGroup, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), United Launch Alliance LLC (ULA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are expanding their geographical reach by winning contracts from the emerging satellite operators across the world. The market players are also investing significantly towards the R&D of new RLVs. For instance, ISRO has been developing and testing its technologies through technology demonstrations in the form of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV TD). The RLV TD is a hybrid vehicle that combines the technologies of an aircraft and launch vehicle, one on top of the other to achieve a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) capability. Similarly, SpaceX is also developing a next-gen fully reusable heavy-lift rocket, named Starship, to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo to the moon and Mars.
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