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Most Innovative Satellite Manufacturing and Launch Systems Companies of 2021

May 26, 2021 | Aerospace & Defense

Satellites continue to play a key role in the acceleration of the global technology, media, and communication industries over the last fifty years. They have made it possible to deliver high-quality video and digital content, as well as super-fast broadband networks. As per a study by Fortune Business Insights™, the market for satellite manufacturing and launch systems would showcase exponential growth by the end of 2028 backed by the increasing investment in research and development activities globally.

Apart from that, the emergence of advanced technologies, such as modular designs and 3D printing would also propel growth. Florence Montredon, the head of additive manufacturing at Thales Group, for instance, mentioned in December 2019 that 3D printing is best suited for multi-function, one-of-a-kind, and complex parts manufactured in small quantities. As today’s satellites require parts with unique cavities and curves, this new technology would surge the flexibility and performance of satellites.

NASA Investigates Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Environment with the Help of Satellites

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has compelled scientists to remain at home. In such situations, Earth-observing satellites have come to their rescue by orbiting and sending back images to reveal the connection between the environment and the pandemic. In September 2020, for instance, NASA mentioned that a group of eight scientists won a project grant to support investigators in exploring how COVID-19 is affecting the environment. High-quality satellite images would help disclose how lockdown measures are impacting precipitation, fire ecology, water quality, air pollution, food security, aquatic ecosystems, and global warming. Such initiatives by prominent organizations would help the industry to expand even during the pandemic.

Fortune Business Insights™ Presents Top 10 Key Players/Companies in the global market for Satellite Manufacturing and Launch Systems:

1. Airbus S.A.S.

Founded 50 years ago by Franz Josef Strauss, Roger Béteille, Henri Ziegler, and Felix Kracht, Airbus S.A.S. is the world’s largest manufacturer of airliners. It sells, produces, and designs military and civil aerospace products worldwide. In 2013, the company’s commercial aircraft segment held 66% of the total revenue. Its product portfolio encompasses models, such as the A380 and the A320 family. As of October 2016, its Airbus fleet has carried more than 12 billion passengers and performed 110 million flights.

In September 2020, Airbus S.A.S. was chosen by the European Space Agency (ESA) to build and design the Copernicus polar ice and snow topography mission (CRISTAL). The contract is worth € 300 million and is set to be launched in 2027. The mission will include two satellites that would enable the long-term continuation of changing records and radar altimetry ice elevation.


2. ArianeGroup SAS

Formerly known as Airbus Safran Launchers, the company is a joint venture between Safran and Airbus. It was formed in 2015 and operates in three core businesses, namely, subsequent production of Ariane 6, defense and security, and aerospace. In February 2019, it joined hands with CNES, the French government space agency to work on ArianeWorks, a unique platform for the development of new launchers. The company is also the prime contractor of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) named M51.

In November 2020, for instance, the company’s subsidiary, Arianespace signed a new contract to launch a communications satellite using an Ariane 5 into the geostationary orbit. It will begin in 2022. The company surpassed its operational performance in 2019, despite the impact of COVID-19. It has planned to conduct ten launches in 2020, including two by Vega, five by Soyuz, and three by Ariane 5.


3. The Boeing Company

It was founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing and is headquartered in the U.S. It manufactures, sells, and designs missiles, telecommunications equipment, satellites, rockets, rotorcraft, and airplanes across the globe. Based on the 2018 revenue, it is the second-largest defense contractor in the world. It houses five key divisions: Boeing Shared Services Group, Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS), Boeing Capital, Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA), and Engineering, Operations & Technology.

In October 2019, Boeing and NASA signed a contract to produce ten Space Launch System core stages. It also includes eight Exploration Upper Stages for supporting the Artemis missions. The company is planning to leverage its facility resources, labor, supply chain efficiencies, and materials for production savings. As per company official, “We are pleased to receive this contract from NASA to support its Artemis program.”


4. GeoOptics, Inc.

Founded by data users, engineers, and scientists, GeoOptics is a provider of high-quality data. It focuses on the rising demand for actionable information about our planet and the impacts of man-made activities on the Earth’s future and quality of life. The company embarked on its mission with the Community Initiative for Cellular Earth Remote Observation (CICERO), its first constellation of nanosatellites. It currently delivers premium-quality radio occultation data from space.

For instance, in April 2020, GeoOptics launched GeoOptics Processor for Radio Occultation (GeoPRO), its state-of-the-art original radio occultation data processing system. It would offer timely and accurate weather data from CICERO. It is specially designed to develop detailed pictures of the Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere.


5. ISIS - Innovative Solutions In Space B.V.

It is a reputed manufacturer of small satellites based in the Netherlands. It majorly focuses on the production of CubeSats, a miniaturized satellite for space research. In Europe, it is one of the leading companies in the nano-satellite domain. As of October 2019, it has assisted the launch of 367 satellites on multiple launch vehicles. Besides, the company has provided 101 satellites for ISRO’s record-breaking PSLV-C37 mission. ISISpace, its launch services subsidiary, contracts piggybank launch opportunities on several vehicles.

Innovative Space Logistics BV (ISILAUNCH), a subsidiary of ISIS signed a Launch Services Agreement with Firefly Aerospace, Inc. in January 2020. It would enable the former to deliver numerous rideshare and dedicated launch opportunities to its customers on the Alpha launch vehicle of Firefly. It will strengthen the company’s position in the market and cater to the growing demand for launch services.


6. JSC Academician M.F. Reshetnev

Headquartered in Russia, the company specializes in the manufacturing of satellites. It has also designed GLONASS, a space-based satellite navigation system for providing an alternative to GPS. The company majorly focuses on the designing and manufacturing of communications, such as geodetic, navigation, and TV broadcasting satellites. Additionally, it also manufactures research spacecraft, such as the Yubileiny research satellite.

JSC Academician M.F. Reshetnev bagged a contract from the ROSCOSMOS State Corporation in May 2020 to design and develop a new satellite. It would help to replenish and augment the orbital constellation of Loutch, the Russian data-relay system.


7. Lockheed Martin Corporation

It is an American defense, security, aerospace, and arms company. It was formed in 1995 owing to the merger of Martin Marietta and Lockheed Corporation. Based in Maryland, the company employs more than 110,000 people across the globe. As of 2014, it is the largest defense contractor in the world. It is also a contractor for NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy. Its business segments include space, Rotary and Mission Systems (RMS), Missiles and Fire Control (MFC), and aeronautics. At the same time, the company invests hefty amounts in renewable energy systems, compact nuclear fusion, healthcare systems, and intelligent energy distribution.

In December 2020, Lockheed Martin Corporation received a contract worth USD 511 million from the U.S. Space Force to supply two GPS 3F satellites. The satellite provides global timing, navigation, and positioning services. It also features a digital navigation payload.


8. Maxar Technologies

It is a space technology company based in the U.S. It manufactures on-orbit servicing, radar, and Earth observation satellites. The current company is a result of a merger between MDA Holdings Company and DigitalGlobe in October 2017. It was chosen by NASA to be the provider of the power and propulsion element for the Lunar Gateway in May 2019.

In September 2020, the U.S. Army Geospatial Center selected Maxar Technologies to deliver various direct-downlink and portable tactical ground systems. These will be used for providing access to critical geospatial intelligence in remote locations. The contract is worth USD 49 million.


9. SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., popularly known as SpaceX, is a space transportation and aerospace manufacturing company. Founded by Elon Musk in 2002, the company aims to lower space transportation costs for allowing the colonization of Mars. It has developed numerous rocket engines and launch vehicles. Besides, it has introduced the Starlink satellite constellation and the Dragon cargo spacecraft.

SpaceX launched two small piggyback satellites and an Earth-observation satellite in August 2020 for Argentina. It marked the company’s fifteenth launch of 2020. The booster’s first stage produced sonic booms around nine minutes after liftoff as it made its way back to terra firma.


10. Viasat, Inc.

It is an American communications company headquartered in the U.S. It provides secure networking systems and high-speed satellite broadband services covering commercial and military markets. It was co-founded by Steve Hart, Mark Miller, and Mark Dankberg in 1986. It delivers mobile two-way satellite broadband services to the U.S. government.

In November 2020, Viasat U.K., Ltd. won a contract to deliver Ultra High Frequency (UHF) satellite communications (SATCOM). They are meant for the Royal Navy’s novel Type 31 frigates. It would enable commanders to remain aware and informed of the fleet disposition.


Would Satellites Help to Transform Our Economy in the Future?

Satellites are anticipated to play a significant role in the future because of the rapid transformation in the world’s mobility patterns. More companies will come forward to introduce innovative products in the industry. Airbus Defense & Space and Forest Trust, for instance, designed their new satellite technology named Starling in June 2017. It uses resolution imagery and radar to monitor deforestation. It will soon be adopted by Ferrero, Nestlé, and Wilmar. This way, the explosion in robotic capability and the rising launch of satellites would be able to accomplish a wide range of complex tasks, thereby developing the economy.

-Written by Reeti Banerjee

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