Communications

The industrialisation of satellites

20th November 2018
Joe Bush

The use of space by satellites has so far focused on scientific, communicative and military aspects. This will change massively in the future. Whole swarms of small satellites are to orbit the globe and supply mankind with internet from orbit. 

On 4th October 1957, the Soviets launched the first artificial earth satellite from the Baikonur spaceport with a modified R-7 intercontinental rocket - the Sputnik 1. The space pioneer was just 83.6kg. His transmitter had a power of 1W. And yet this Sputnik 1 led to a veritable Sputnik shock. His unforgettable beeping panicked the West. Khrushchev had won the race into space.

With this first satellite, the communication, weather and spy satellites we are now familiar with have little in common. These are mostly high-tech monsters weighing tonnes, the production of which costs a fortune. And that's not all. The satellite wants to be brought into orbit. For this it needs a launcher. And they are (still) really expensive.

The prices of the established model families Ariane, Atlas or Soyuz vary between $60m and $170m for the payload versions. Converted, this results in a kilo price of between $4,000 and $8,000. The costs depend enormously on the mass of the satellite, the desired orbital height and the choice of launch vehicle.

Schurter has published a whitepaper on the subject. See below.

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