Report Cites Gains by U.S. Industry in Commercial Market

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WASHINGTON — U.S. companies claimed 12 of 18 announced orders for commercial geostationary-orbiting satellites in 2012, their largest share, at nearly 67 percent, of the global market in a decade, according to a new report.

In its latest annual “State of the Satellite Industry Report,” released June 17, the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) also noted the growing presence of the U.S. launch industry in the commercial market, where it has been largely absent since the late 1990s. According to the report, prepared by the Tauri Group, a consultancy here, orders to launch 25 commercial payloads were placed in 2012, with eight going to U.S. companies, up from three the year before.

The report did not identify the companies, but relative newcomer Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has been making visible commercial market inroads in recent years with its Falcon 9 rocket and expects to launch its first geostationary orbiting communications satellite this year. Europe, whose Arianespace consortium operates three launchers including the workhorse Ariane 5, won the largest share of commercial orders during 2012, the report said.

In satellite manufacturing, U.S. industry was dominant during the 1990s, but its market share has eroded over the years due to factors including stricter export rules, quality control issues at some U.S. companies and the rise of international competitors, particularly in Europe. But U.S. manufacturers, led by Space Systems/Loral, Boeing Space and Defense Group, and Orbital Sciences Corp. have reasserted or asserted themselves in recent years.

According to the report, European companies captured three geostationary satellite orders in 2012, for a 17 percent market share, followed by China with two orders and Israel with one. Depending on how SIA and Tauri compile the numbers, Canada could see a significant market share next year by virtue of the acquisition of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Space Systems/Loral by MDA Corp. of Richmond, British Columbia.

Last year marked a seven-year low in orders for commercial geostationary satellites, according to the report, which includes figures dating to 2006. The peak for that period was 2009, when 39 geostationary satellite orders were announced, with U.S. companies capturing 18 of those.

Overall, all four sectors of the satellite industry — services, manufacturing, ground equipment and launch — continued to grow in 2012, according to the report, based on surveys of more than 80 companies worldwide. Global revenue across all four sectors was $189.5 billion, up 7 percent from the previous year.

Satellite services, the largest of the sectors, grew by 5 percent, to $113 billion in revenue worldwide, the study said. Direct-to-home satellite television continues to dominate the services sector, accounting for $88.4 billion of the total in 2012. Commercial remote sensing revenue grew by 20 percent, to $1.3 billion, the report said.

The global industry sector with the highest growth rate was launch, which accounted for $6.5 billion during 2012, up 35 percent from the previous year. U.S. companies booked 35 percent of the total, almost entirely from launching government payloads.  

Worldwide revenue in satellite manufacturing, including commercial and government satellites for applications ranging from communications to navigation to remote sensing, was $14.6 billion in 2012, the report said. U.S. companies garnered 60 percent of the total, the report said.

The manufacturing growth came despite the fact that the number of satellites launched during the year was down, from 90 worldwide in 2011 to 81 in 2012. The report said the revenue growth was “driven by a greater number of higher value satellites” launched during 2012.

The worldwide market for satellite ground equipment for communications networks, navigation and television-reception, grew by 4 percent in 2012, to $54.8 billion. The biggest contributor was navigation equipment including GPS receivers, which garnered $32.2 billion in 2012, about the same as in 2011.