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9 February 2018

LAUNCH SERVICES CONTINUE TO BE AN OBSTACLE

98% of satellite industry representatives attending the 3rd Annual Smallsat Symposium in the Silicon Valley, USA, are unanimous in their view that launch services continue to be an obstacle for the small satellite market growth.

In agreement with them are delegates from space launch industries represented by launch service providers and launch brokers from Russia, USA, Europe, Japan and New Zealand.   Officials from Arianespace, GK Launch Services, Spaceflight Industries, Rocket Lab, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries addressed this and other topics at the panel discussion “Launch Opportunities and Payload Differences”. Alexander Serkin, CEO, addressed the Panel on behalf of GK Launch Services.

“Supply side of the launch market has grown; nevertheless the launch prices still remain unchanged,” said Alexander Serkin.

Space access capacity keeps on increasing and with emergence of new superlight rockets this trend will continue. However, despite all these processes, the economics remains invariable, i.e. a micro- or nanosatellite launch price remains within the range of $30,000 to 50,000 per kg.   The amount of technical obstacles decreases, but the price doesn’t go down.

Mr. Serkin shared his vision of smallsat market outlook in the near future and for the first time he publicly set forth GK’s goals in terms of pricing of micro- and nanosatellite launches using Soyuz-2 LV.

Emerging launch vehicles will facilitate timely satellite launching and will allow the micro-/ nanosat market to rely on the smallsat-oriented vehicles capable to deliver them to target orbits. Having several players with new LVs will enable a predictable dedicated access to space. However, it still looks more practical to solve the price issue by piggyback/ rideshare launching on a vehicle like Soyuz-2. Today, GK works with all types of Soyuz LV and each launch assumes accommodation of piggyback payload

“Launch services for smallsats are critical, let alone the fact that for the satellites of 1 to 50kg launch cost in average amounts to about 50% of entire mission budget. The major issue here is how it will affect the capacity of the smallsat market which was in particular looking forward to launch economics changes. The segment of smallsats (1-50kg) is less predictable,” said Alexander Serkin.

In conclusion Mr. Serkin voiced a launch price: a kilo of a payload will cost less than $30,000, and the company is taking efforts to further decrease its prices. In addition, the more standard solutions are used the better the price is.

GK Launch Services was established upon ROSCOSMOS decision to commercialize launch services. It is a launch service provider authorized to conclude commercial contracts for satellite launching on Soyuz-2 launch vehicles from Russian spaceports.