Small launch vehicles
Despite a surge in Chinese launch activity and growth of commercial Chinese launch developers, executives with American companies said they’re not worried about potential competition with them.
Startups in the burgeoning small launch vehicle market acknowledge that only a handful of vehicles will survive a likely shakeout, driven more by commercial rather than government demand.
Space startups seeking funding should stay away from increasingly overcrowded parts of the market and instead seek more novel approaches that could offer much bigger returns.
German launch services provider Exolaunch announced a memorandum of understanding April 11 with Virgin Orbit to send satellites into space as early as 2020 on LauncherOne dedicated and rideshare missions.
Three launch vehicle developers, one of which is still in stealth mode, have qualified to compete in a DARPA competition in early 2020 to demonstrate responsive launch capabilities.
Small launch vehicle developer Relativity announced April 5 a contract with Telesat to launch a portion of that company’s low Earth orbit broadband satellite constellation.
The Air Force Space Test Program has awarded contracts to Rocket Lab and Vox Space. More vendors could be selected.
Developers of small launch vehicles, who have promoted their vehicles as providing dedicated access to space for small satellites, say they’re also open to flying rideshare missions as they face competition from larger rockets.
The Air Force is looking to attract startups and commercial businesses to pitch ideas to the military. But Roper acknowledged the Air Force has to do a better job at this.
A small launch vehicle company is increasing its vehicle’s payload capacity and reducing its price as it seeks to find a niche in a crowded market.
A startup that recently hired an experienced Ukrainian engineer is taking a long-term view for development of a small launch vehicle, believing that performance will win out over time.