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Expendable Launch Vehicles Market Seen At $48 Billion In Next Decade

By | August 25, 2008

      The global market for expendable launch vehicles (ELVs), or rockets, will see an upturn to total about $48 billion over the next decade, according to a new projection from Forecast International (FI) in Newtown, Conn.

      Makers of launch vehicles include The Boeing Co. [BA] and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT]. Those firms, the two largest defense contractors, have joint ventures including United Launch Alliance.

      Launch vehicles included in the FI survey range from the gigantic American lifter, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, down to the smaller European Vega lifter.

      About two-thirds of the launch business came in orders from governments last year, and that trend likely will continue, according to the FI report, "The Market for Expendable Launch Vehicles."

      In the United States, the military satellite market is vigorous as it meets needs of the various transformational efforts under way, according to FI. "There seems to be a never-ending list of programs that are planning launches throughout the decade," FI noted. "United Launch Alliance – a tie up of Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s launch operations – will be the direct beneficiary of the full military satellite manifest in the U.S."

      European nations won’t fly nearly as many military satellites.

      "While the level of military satellite production in Europe will remain in sharp contrast to that of the United States, there will still be plenty of contracts out there for the Ariane 5 and the upcoming Vega," according to John Edwards, Forecast International senior analyst and author of the study. The Ariane 5 heavy lifter rocket is made by Arianespace.

      In terms of countries producing these ELVs, the United States is expected to account for 161 units.

      Russian, Ukrainian, and Chinese production through 2017 should amount to approximately 306 units. However, even at a nearly double unit output, Russian, Ukrainian, and Chinese value of production will account for $15.9 billion, whereas U.S. production of 145 fewer units is expected to be valued at $17.9 billion. This disparity can be attributed to high- ticket ELVs in the U.S., such as the Atlas V, Delta IV, and Ares I.

      The Ares I will be the rocket powering the next-generation U.S. space capsule, called Orion, into orbit.

      NASA, in the Constellation Program, is leading development of the Orion space capsule by Lockheed. Orion and the Altair lunar lander will be boosted by the Ares rocket that will have various components developed by Boeing, Alliant Techsystems Inc. [ATK], and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp. [UTX].

      Production coming from India, Japan, and Israel will total approximately 73 units, and Europe is expected to roll out 92 ELVs during the same period.

      "The anticipated resurgence in demand for both geosynchronous and non-geosynchronous satellite communications capacity and continued substantial government demand indicate that despite razor-thin profit margins, the world market for expendable launch vehicles is headed for a considerable market upturn," Edwards predicted.

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