SMALL SATELLITES PROPEL THE SPACE INDUSTRY FORWARD IN UTAH
Authors: Rob Michel, Manager of Market and Business Development
Small satellites—spacecrafts with a mass less than 180 kilograms—are becoming more popular for space exploration and many missions are using tens, hundreds, or even thousands of small satellites to achieve revolutionary effects through economical means (source: SmallSat.org). Each year, the Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University explores this trend and the way it is impacting the satellite industry. Materion has been attending the show for several years and this year, after the 33rd annual conference we’re sharing our key takeaways from the event.
Private Sector Is Leading the Charge
Small satellites are being used by various groups, but the private sector is currently the strongest driving force behind the small satellite boom—even more so than government projects. We expect that venture capital funding for small satellites will continue to outpace government funding over the next few years, as the cost of rocket launches decreases and enables more private sector options. Continued improvements such as lighter, more affordable materials will continue to support this strong growth.
Cyber Security Stays Top of Mind
Cyber security remains top of mind for people across the globe, which is why the cyber security industry is expected to increase by nearly three million jobs over the next ten years. This industry heavily depends on small satellites to enable secure communication processes through laser communication. As a result, we expect the small satellite industry to grow in parallel with cyber security.
Universities Support Industry Growth
Universities across the United States are also supporting this industry by expanding course work to include small satellite training programs. University-sponsored teams are working to build and launch their own satellites with the help of corporate partners. For example, during this conference, a number of university students competed in a design competition with the announcement of a winner after the conference: https://smallsat.org/students/student-competition.
Government Shift to Small Satellites
Traditionally, NASA has built large satellite projects, but they, along with other government agencies are starting to follow the private sector in developing small satellite capabilities. This paradigm shift will eventually enable larger scale solutions with more distributed costs. Over the next few years, we expect to see continued government support and funding for small satellites missions.
As the industry expands, Materion will continue to explore materials solutions that propel the industry forward. To learn more about our materials solutions for space exploration, visit our pages on satellite solutions.
The 33rd Annual Small Satellite Conference, hosted at Utah State University, explored the technical issues, development considerations, and new opportunities that result from an ever-growing trend toward missions using tens, hundreds, or even thousands of small satellites to achieve revolutionary effects.