Companies that are developing small launch vehicles or who provide rideshare launch services say they expect new Chinese launch vehicles to drive down launch prices, raising concerns among some of unfair competition.
Planet and Spire, operators of the two largest commercial cubesat constellations in orbit, say they manage their fleets to prevent retired spacecraft from lingering in space beyond internationally accepted guidelines.
Proponents of commercial satellite weather programs have talked up the promise of government data buys from such systems. The results so far have been underwhelming.
The number of small satellites launched in 2017 exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts, but continued growth of the market will require new companies to start deploying constellations in the next few years.
The successful launch of an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) Jan. 11 marked not just the return to flight of the rocket but also major achievements for several of the companies with payloads on board the vehicle.
Rocket Lab, the U.S.-New Zealand company developing the Electron small launch vehicle, said Sept. 26 that it will fly four cubesats from two companies on the rocket’s next test flight late this year.
Following a decision to pull eight Spire commercial cubesats from an Orbital ATK Minotaur 4 launch from Cape Canaveral Aug. 26 carrying a military payload, the U.S. Air Force says it and other government agencies are crafting clear procedures on how to handle such future rideshare agreements.
Spire is wading deeper into the ship-tracking business, challenging established competitors operating fleets of much bigger satellites.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is using satellite data provided by Spire Global and Ball Aerospace to monitor maritime traffic in the Arctic, a region where the changing climate is having a dramatic impact on trade routes, Peter Platzer, Spire chief executive, said March 6 during a Satellite 2017 panel here.
NOAA awarded contracts Sept. 15 to two companies to provide weather data as part of a pilot program that could lead to greater uses of data from commercial satellites.