WASHINGTON — The conversations that dominated the last two World Satellite Business Week conferences centered mainly on increasingly capable high-throughput satellites in geostationary orbit and on constellations of numerous, smaller satellites in lower orbits.

The core branches of the satellite ecosystem — manufacturers, launchers, and ground equipment providers — had hoped that by 2018 those satellite-operator musings would have leafed out by now.

Some of them have, but too many have not. While most if not all satellite operators see internet-beaming high-throughput satellites as part of their future, satellite technology is advancing so rapidly that many fear ordering the wrong satellite today will leave them with a spacecraft that’s obsolete before it’s earned back its investment.

Satellite operator paralysis has gone on long enough that the rest of the ecosystem has sought comfort in knowing that operators at a minimum need replacements for their existing satellites before they fail, and therefore can’t hold off forever on contracts to build, orbit and utilize new spacecraft.

The first three days of World Satellite Business Week 2018, taking place Sept. 10-14 in Paris, will focus on satellite communications, while the last two days bring attention to the also dynamic market of space-based Earth observation.

Big questions that will hopefully find answers at this year’s conference include: how many satellite manufacturers and launch providers can the market support? Do markets like the Internet of Things and inflight connectivity hold as much promise as satellite operators hope? And, of course, what to satellite operators actually want?

Here are some panels SpaceNews is looking forward to:


Panel: Satellite and the Hyper-Connected World

Participants: satellite operators Eutelsat, SES, Intelsat, Viasat, Inmarsat and Telesat


Panel: Next steps for NGSO satellite constellations

Participants: OneWeb, SES Networks, Iridium and LeoSat

Panel: Accelerating access to space

Participants: SpaceX, Arianespace, ILS, ULA, Blue Origin, China Great Wall Industry Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries


Panel: Manufacturing: Shifting towards a more software-defined world

Participants: Airbus, SSL, Thales Alenia Space, Boeing Satellite Systems International, Lockheed Martin Space and Northrop Grumman

Panel: The IoT revolution

Participants: Sigfox, Kepler Communications, CLS, Actility, Sky and Space Global


Panel: Innovation in data collecting and sharing

Participants: KSAT, SSC, RBC Signals, GMV, and GAF AG


Panel: Upcoming technology and business milestones for optical constellations

Participants: Deimos Imaging, Planet, Beijing Space View Technology, Satellogic, BlackSky

Panel: Leveraging new capabilities for defense & security

Participants: NGA, UAE Armed Forces, European Union Satellite Centre, European Maritime Safety Agency and Frontex

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...