The Commercial Earth Imaging Satellite Market Is Pegged For Conservative Growth

By | September 27, 2000 | Feature

Some industry analysts concur that the next decade will yield minor growth for business ventures within the remote sensing industry. According to the Teal Group‘s study The Commercial Earth Imaging Satellite Market, commercial remote sensing satellites will account for about three percent of all satellites in the next 10 years in terms of units. Likewise, an estimated worth of $3.62 billion is attributed to these birds and they also will make up only 3 percent of the total value of all satellites.

The report further points out that the current average of 1.8 commercial imaging satellites launched annually during the past 10 years will jump to 4.3 per year in the coming decade. “So, even though commercial imaging satellites do not represent a large market in relative terms, this is clearly a growth market for satellite industry watchers,” said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst for the Teal Group.

One of the main reasons for the noticeable increase in the number of commercial imaging satellites, the report points out, is that there have been major improvements in imagery resolution. “Advanced sensors technologies have been employed by several new start-up satellite imagery companies in their systems, this helping create a competitive and dynamic industry that is fueling the creation of new consumer applications for the data,” Caceres added.

Smaller, More Powerful Satellites Impacting Market

While there is a boost of interest within the commercial satellite market, a parallel trend also is emerging. According to the report, these birds also are becoming much smaller in size. “All of a sudden you had satellites with better imaging capabilities than satellites 10 times their mass…a true technological revolution in the making,” said Caceres.

This reduction in size, however, also has reduced overall program costs. Now, it is possible to build a top-of-the-line imaging satellite and launch it aboard a small rocket for under $150 million, the report states.

“Predictably, the more attractive economics of fielding an imaging satellite system is leading additional companies and governments to enter the market and take advantage of a near-term demand for high-resolution imagery estimated to be worth in excess of $1 billion per year worldwide,” Caceres said. “We expect that in the next five years, there will be at least half a dozen additional commercial imaging satellite operators, with a diverse range of system architectures and capabilities.”

Future Programs

Some of the new programs expected to launch commercial imaging satellites by 2005 include AstroVision, David, Eros, QuickBird, Radar-1, RapidEye and Resource21. These systems will account for about 23 satellites during 2001-2010. “At least three-quarters of these will be small satellites weighing under 500 kg. All of these satellites will have a resolution capability of 10 m or better,” Caceres said. “Three-quarters of them will be able to produce 5 m resolution or better. A few plan to offer 1 m resolution or better.”

AstroVision Corp. of Longmont, Colo., is proposing the AstroVision bird. The company already has its license and a multimillion-dollar contract from NASA to study the formation of tornadoes in the United States.

A joint venture between El-Op Ltd. of Rehovot, Israel, and OHB-System GmbH of Bremen, Germany, are proposing the David satellite. The report points out that market studies for this program peg it to support applications in agriculture, forestry, pollution, urban planning and mineral exploration.

Resource21 is a Boeing [BA]-led program that has been around since the mid-90s with little development. Resource21 LLC of Denver, Colo., which is a joint venture between Boeing and GDE Systems Inc., manages the program. Resource21 hopes to provide precision agriculture or smart farming information.

Finally, RapidEye AG of Munich, Germany, manages RapidEye. Similar to the Resource21 project, RapidEye will gather information for the agricultural community.

Replenishing, Expanding Current Systems

With design lifetimes of five to seven years for many of the imagery satellites, the report indicates that probably half of the 20 birds slated for the decade will be used to replace satellite nearing the end of their lifetime.

“This begs the question, will there be sufficient market demand for imagery to justify expanding operational systems and building new ones?” said Caceres. “To a large extent, this will depend on the kind of user products the industry can create for its data.”

The commercial earth imaging satellite market report is within a larger publication published by The Teal Group called the World Space Systems Briefing. The subscription price for the briefing is $1,295 per year. For subscription information contact Doug Cornell at 703/573-5374.

Satellite Imagery Forecast Commercial Value
2001-2010
Year
Millions
2001
290
2002
610
2003
510
2004
340
2005
430
2006
400
2007
200
2008
240
2009
400
2010
200
Source: The Teal Group
Imaging Satellite Unit Forecast
2001-2010
Year
Units
2001
4
2002
5
2003
5
2004
6
2005
6
2006
5
2007
3
2008
4
2009
3
2010
2
Source: The Teal Group

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