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Forecast Sees 139 Satellites Worth $16.3 Billion In 10 Years

By | May 30, 2006

      The space industry faces robust growth in coming years, with 139 imaging satellites worth $16.3 billion being delivered in the next 10 years, a surge that will see India seize an even more commanding position in the sector, according to a study by Forecast International.

      Splitting the decade-long period, the first five years will see more action than the second, according to the study. “The first half of the period will be more active than the second, with 97 spacecraft slated for production within the next five years,” the study projects.

      While that amounts to a cornucopia of new business, don’t expect an invasion of new players in the picture, according to the study.

      “Despite the ever-growing list of remote sensing spacecraft destined for orbit during the next 10 years, very few new players are expected to enter the commercial operator market,” the study states.

      Rather, there has been some consolidation recently, which the study sees as consonant with stability in the sector.

      “The U.S. commercial remote sensing market is headed toward a period of stability thanks to the acquisition of Space Imaging by Orbimage, now known as GeoEye,” the study finds.

      “The narrowing of the field from three down to two should take a burden off the U.S. government, as ensuring adequate support to all three U.S. players had been problematic,” said John Edwards, Forecast International space systems editor.

      “Leaning on this government support, U.S. remote sensing operators now seem content to court govern-ment business almost exclusively, as there is much less emphasis on development of the commercial base,” he said. “A rebound toward the commercial side is anticipated but it’s not expected for at least another five years or more.”

      In the near-term outlook, through 2009, the study expects that production lines will remain very active, turning out an average of 19 spacecraft per year.

      “The overwhelming majority will be low-Earth-orbiting (LEO) satellites, with 19 such systems planned for 2006, followed by 23 in 2007 and 25 in 2008,” the study expects. That’s a lot of launches, and lucrative.

      “The value of annual LEO satellite production during the first half of the forecast period will range between $848 million at the low end and $3.2 billion at the high end,” the study forecasts. In addition, “Production of the eight geostationary Earth-orbiting (GEO) spacecraft planned for the forecast period is valued at approximately $1.4 billion.”

      A key finding in the report is that the globalization that has hit so many other industries, including defense contracting, will continue and expand in the space sector.

      “The top unit producer in the LEO remote sensing satellite market is expected to be the Indian Space Research Organization, which is forecast to supply 14 satellites over the next 10 years,” according to the study.

      “India’s production plans for remote sensing satellites are ambitious and unrivaled,” Edwards said. Still, “the United States has a handful of large satellites in the pipeline to serve individual companies like DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, but again, these serve individual companies, whereas the ISRO and Antrix drive the plans for Indian production.”

      This centralized approach has led to one of the most powerful and cohesive satellite fleets in orbit, the study reports, noting that India currently owns and operates a fleet of six remote sensing satellites.

      The crystal-ball study also sees greater cooperation among nations on space programs.

      “Over the next 10 years, as the shared aims for satellite-based imagery are realized, international cooperation on civil programs will become more mainstream,” the study predicts.

      Demand will be widespread and diverse. “The markets for the data are myriad, starting with serving govern-ments during wartime, engineers during development, and farmers during the growing season,” the study observes.

      “Lately, trends have been leaning toward applications in urban planning and development and search-and-rescue operations.”

      As well, the multiplicity of uses for space-gathered data could aid environmental initiatives.

      “Comparative satellite imagery could also be used to track endangered species and to help protect the Earth’s natural resources,” the study notes. While competition in providing these products is vibrant, the sector may see fewer players thanks to consolidation, rather than more participants.

      “Competition to sell these products is fierce,” the study finds, and it “expects this competition to spur another round of limited consolidation during the forecast period.”

      The study is entitled “The Market for Civil & Commercial Remote Sensing Satellites” and was recently completed by Connecticut-based Forecast International.

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