Author Topic: Countdown to new smallsat launchers  (Read 72994 times)

Online savuporo

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Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« on: 10/06/2015 05:53 AM »
Orbital ATK sponsored a market study of emerging new smallsat launchers. There are threads for many around here, last up to date blogpost with a table here : http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/10/04/updated-list-smallsat-launch-vehicles/

I took and ordered this by estimated launch dates, soonest first. Empty columns for those where i couldnt find an easy third party cited reference or didn't bother. Also didnt bother with some that haven't show recent or near future promise of flying.

OrganizationVehicleCountryYear/QuarterMain propulsionPriceRefThread
Interorbital SystemsNEPTUNE N5USA2016 Q13-stage hno3/turpentine$0.25Mrefthread
CTAVLMBrazil/Ger2016 Q24-stage solidrefthread
Celestia AerospaceSagitariusSpain2016 Q2airlaunch, solid ?$0.24Mref
Rocket LabElectronNZ/USA2016 Q32-stage kerolox$4.9Mrefthread
Virgin GalacticLauncherOneUSA2016 Q4airlaunch, 2-stage kerolox<$10Mrefthread
XCOR AerospaceLynx Mark IIIUSA2017 Q1airlaunchrefthread
Swiss Space SystemsSOARSwitzerland2017 Q2airlaunch<$10Mref
Firefly Space SystemsFireflyUSA2017 Q22-stage, methalox$8-9Mrefthread
Horizon SASBlack Arrow 2UK2017 Q22-stage, methalox$7.5Mrefthread
CubeCabCubeCabUSA2017 Q3airlaunch, no detail$0.25Mref
Generation OrbitGO Launcher 2USA2017 Q4airlaunch$2.5Mref
zero2infinityBloostarSpain2018 Q2Balloon  + CH4/lox$4.0Mref
InterStellar TechnologiesPocky ? Japan3 stage LOX/ethanolref
CONAETronador IIArgentina2.5-stage kerolox/hypergol$6M
Lin IndustrialTaimyrRussia2 stage peroxide/kero$0.18 Mrefthread
Tranquility AerospaceDevon TwoUK2 stage peroxide/keroref
Garvey Spacecraft CorporationNLVUSA2 stage keroloxref
PLD SpaceArion-2Spain2 stage keroloxrefthread
MISHAAL AerospaceM-OVUSA2 stage hybrid LOX/HTPBrefthread
NammoNorth StarNorway20203 stage perfoxide/rubber hybridrefthread
Open Space OrbitalNeutrino 1Canada2020ref
SpaceLSPrometheus-1UK3 stage peroxide/kero
Bagaveev CorporationUSAref
Scorpius Space Launch CompanyDemi-SpriteUSA$3.6Mref
ARCA Space Corp.Haas 2CRomania/USA2-stage keroloxref
Lockheed MartinAthena IcUSAref
--- unclear status ---
Ventions LLCSALVOUSAunclearairlaunch, 2-stage keroloxrefthread
Sandia National LabSuper StrypiUSAunclear3-stage solid$12Mrefthread
BoeingALASAUSAcancelledairlaunch, 2-stage$1Mrefthread

EDITs:
- VLM date, Cubecab dates, Tronador config

- Bunch of new references and main propulsion listings for second half of the list

- Nammo NorthStar added

- Bloostar details from IAC2015 announcement

- Strypi failed, future unclear, ALASA cancelled, RocketLab delayed

- Added Horizon / Black Arrow 2
« Last Edit: 04/10/2016 06:50 AM by savuporo »
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Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #1 on: 10/06/2015 09:06 AM »
Thanks very much savuporo. That is an excellent summary. You have CubeCab and VLM-1 not in correct date sequence. You might want to also include VLS-1, which has not yet successfully flown.

http://www.iae.cta.br/site/page/view/pt.vls1.html
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Offline baldusi

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #2 on: 10/06/2015 12:43 PM »
Tronador II will be 2.5 stages. It has a kerolox first stage that drops two of its three engines mid-flight. And the upper stage will be hypergolic. Expected to do 500kg to 700km SSO Original target price was 6M USD. But this is a government project, so...
Then Tronador III will be available with increased performance (and probably number of engines on first stage) but same 2.5 stage design. Expected to do 1,000kg to 700kg SSO.
« Last Edit: 10/06/2015 12:43 PM by baldusi »

Online savuporo

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #3 on: 10/06/2015 03:45 PM »
Updated as per comments - thanks. Finding an actual planned date for VLM is harder than decoding Yutu downlinks !
I wouldnt track two vehicles per organization until one actually goes anywhere close to space.
Also found a single tweet about CubeCab launch date.

Any further recently discussed launch dates that are within next two years or so ? I have this in a Google Sheets doc with a small script that outputs forum formatting

I also omitted orbits and cost/kg estimates because i dont believe they are too significant. If any of these actually flies any hardware close to space, it'll be a big day.
« Last Edit: 10/06/2015 03:58 PM by savuporo »
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Offline parabolicarc

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #4 on: 10/06/2015 05:39 PM »

Here's an updated list using the Orbital ATK survey and other companies mentioned by my readers. The criteria on this list are a bit broader than the Orbital ATK survey. Includes smallsat launchers that are not on the commercial market:

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/10/04/updated-list-smallsat-launch-vehicles/

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #5 on: 10/06/2015 06:40 PM »
Here is PLD space website, the Spanish have 3 LVs in his list.

http://pldspace.com/project.html

Offline bad_astra

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #6 on: 10/06/2015 08:02 PM »
Feels like the 90's again.. Connestoga, Roton, Pioneer, Kelly..
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #7 on: 10/06/2015 08:59 PM »
Feels like the 90's again.. Connestoga, Roton, Pioneer, Kelly..
Hopefully some will survive and be successful, definitely a good portion of these new LVs will never fly or go out of business.

Online savuporo

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #8 on: 10/06/2015 09:47 PM »
Feels like the 90's again.. Connestoga, Roton, Pioneer, Kelly..

Yes, but a lot less extraordinaries here. Most companies seem to go for straightforward no nonsense technical solutions ( except airlaunch but thats my personal opinion ).
The key issue is more the viability of the market.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #9 on: 10/07/2015 06:08 AM »
Feels like the 90's again.. Connestoga, Roton, Pioneer, Kelly..

Yes, but a lot less extraordinaries here. Most companies seem to go for straightforward no nonsense technical solutions ( except airlaunch but thats my personal opinion ).
The key issue is more the viability of the market.

They're trying to enter a market that has much more competitive pressure now than the space launch market of the 90s.  There's SpaceX, of course, but also Orbital ATK (Antares and also Minotaur and don't forget Pegasus, which could become more viable again if the small-satellite market these start-ups hope to tap becomes viable), and ULA and Ariane are also competing more fiercely on price thanks to SpaceX shaking up the market.

Both secondaries and dedicated rideshares on the larger launch vehicles are stiff competition for any of these new smallsat launchers.


Online savuporo

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #10 on: 10/07/2015 06:30 AM »
Yep fully aware. The only credible argument for the smallsat launchers is potential responsiveness.

A large majority of the candidate payloads are experiments, and experiments like short turnaround times. Iterating a Cubesat sensor or electronics payload can be done in months, not years, with an experienced team, because the basic building blocks are commoditized, pretty modular and readily available. Current launch opportunities however are still decidedly fickle.

This rapid turnaround ( or operationally responsive, in defense-speak ) aspect of demand did not exist in 90ies.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #11 on: 10/07/2015 06:44 AM »
Yep fully aware. The only credible argument for the smallsat launchers is potential responsiveness.

A large majority of the candidate payloads are experiments, and experiments like short turnaround times. Iterating a Cubesat sensor or electronics payload can be done in months, not years, with an experienced team, because the basic building blocks are commoditized, pretty modular and readily available. Current launch opportunities however are still decidedly fickle.

This rapid turnaround ( or operationally responsive, in defense-speak ) aspect of demand did not exist in 90ies.

Sure, they'd like to have rapid turnaround, but do they have the money to spend on $5-$10 million per dedicated launch to get it a few months earlier versus a fraction of that cost on a shared ride?  My sense is that hardly any smallsats have that kind of money.  And if they're iterating, as you suggest, that's multiple tens of millions of dollars in launch costs.

Anyway, the dedicated launchers base their business model on the idea that demand for smallsat launches is going to grow rapidly from where it is today.  If it really does grow rapidly, then the frequency of rideshare launches will go up, and the time a payload needs to wait for a shared ride will come down.

So the dedicated smallsat launchers are caught depending on the market being large enough they can get lots of launches and cover their development and fixed costs but small enough that there aren't many rideshare launches on bigger vehicles.  It seems to me the space between too many smallsats and too few is very narrow -- quite probably zero.  Even if the space is non-zero, it's not a good bet that the market will hit that narrow zone, and it leaves no room for growth by the dedicated launchers.

Online savuporo

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #12 on: 10/07/2015 06:53 AM »
Sure, they'd like to have rapid turnaround, but do they have the money to spend on $5-$10 million per dedicated launch to get it a few months earlier versus a fraction of that cost on a shared ride?
Most of the vehicles here plan to offer shared rides, so the math for individual payload customers is a bit different. 1U cubesat is 1kg, and somewhere between 1kg and a ton is probably an ideal LEO payload capacity that serves the near term market demand the best.
Company/org that can hit the magic combination of fixed costs, per-flight costs, payload size, turnaround times etc will obviously do better.

Clearly, there is a niche though as quite a few of the entrants in the table are signing up plenty of payloads before they have flown anything
« Last Edit: 10/07/2015 06:54 AM by savuporo »
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #13 on: 10/07/2015 07:39 AM »
Clearly, there is a niche though as quite a few of the entrants in the table are signing up plenty of payloads before they have flown anything

Aside from Virgin Galactic signing up for a share of OneWeb's business (in return for Virgin investing in OneWeb, a start-up with few investors and a large need for capital, so perhaps not a sign of an unbiased customer choice), I'm not aware of very many payloads actually being signed up by any of these new small launch providers.

Some of them have claimed to have customers, but without saying who, which is suspicious, given that it's standard practice to announce who the customer is when a customer signs up for a commercial launch.

Online savuporo

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #14 on: 10/07/2015 07:45 AM »
Aside from Virgin Galactic signing up for a share of OneWeb's business (in return for Virgin investing in OneWeb, a start-up with few investors and a large need for capital, so perhaps not a sign of an unbiased customer choice), I'm not aware of very many payloads actually being signed up by any of these new small launch providers.
Absence of proof is not proof of absence ;) I tried to collect some references up in the table that were discussing launch dates, i've come across various talks, podcast and conference materials where some of the folks involved talk about what they have signed up, too. InterOrbital for instance, in the video linked above, claims to have a suborbital high apogee launch sold out and a second one almost filling up.

I dont have the dedication and time to collect references for all these claims tho, the ever shifting first launch date claims are elusive enough.
The 2015 SPRSA symposium had a bunch of presentations and talks where backlogs were discussed too, some talks are available through website. The individual NSF threads linked above have some announcements and details, too.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #15 on: 10/07/2015 08:06 AM »
Aside from Virgin Galactic signing up for a share of OneWeb's business (in return for Virgin investing in OneWeb, a start-up with few investors and a large need for capital, so perhaps not a sign of an unbiased customer choice), I'm not aware of very many payloads actually being signed up by any of these new small launch providers.
Absence of proof is not proof of absence ;) I tried to collect some references up in the table that were discussing launch dates, i've come across various talks, podcast and conference materials where some of the folks involved talk about what they have signed up, too. InterOrbital for instance, in the video linked above, claims to have a suborbital high apogee launch sold out and a second one almost filling up.

I dont have the dedication and time to collect references for all these claims tho, the ever shifting first launch date claims are elusive enough.
The 2015 SPRSA symposium had a bunch of presentations and talks where backlogs were discussed too, some talks are available through website. The individual NSF threads linked above have some announcements and details, too.

Oh, I agree, it's possible they have customers.  It's just suspicious that there seem to be so many claims without any details being announced.  A lot of these could be things like MOUs indicating interest from some customer but without a firm commitment or deposit.

It's always in the interests of customers to sign an MOU like that, because customers want choices, so they want new launch service providers to get investors, because it increases competition, which is good for the customer.  And the companies trying to raise money obviously like it.  The losers are the investors and us, the general public, who are misled about the real state of the market.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #16 on: 10/07/2015 08:50 AM »
Rocketlab website booking system is already showing a few fully booked flights. There are 27 flights from 2016 to 2019, 16 of these are 71-100% booked. These are ride share flights, there maybe single customer flights eg MoonExpress, which a not listed on website.
 
As for the market demand, I would expect the large venture capital companies to have done their homework before investing 10s millions into likes of RocketLab and Firefly.

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #17 on: 10/07/2015 01:30 PM »
Rocketlab website booking system is already showing a few fully booked flights. There are 27 flights from 2016 to 2019, 16 of these are 71-100% booked. These are ride share flights, there maybe single customer flights eg MoonExpress, which a not listed on website.
 
As for the market demand, I would expect the large venture capital companies to have done their homework before investing 10s millions into likes of RocketLab and Firefly.

and one firm that does know its business is LM.  They invested in RocketLab 8)
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Offline Danderman

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #18 on: 10/07/2015 04:50 PM »
Feels like the 90's again.. Connestoga, Roton, Pioneer, Kelly..

The difference is that these are teeny tiny conventional rockets, compared with the larger, unconventional approaches of the 1990s systems.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Countdown to new smallsat launchers
« Reply #19 on: 10/07/2015 06:53 PM »
Rocketlab website booking system is already showing a few fully booked flights. There are 27 flights from 2016 to 2019, 16 of these are 71-100% booked. These are ride share flights, there maybe single customer flights eg MoonExpress, which a not listed on website.
 
As for the market demand, I would expect the large venture capital companies to have done their homework before investing 10s millions into likes of RocketLab and Firefly.

1.) These Venture Capital companies tend to be filled with people with experience in Silicon Valley tech companies.  Space Launch is outside their area of expertise.  They don't necessarily know.  If they hear conflicting opinions from various people in the industry, they don't know which to believe.

2.) 90% of VC-funded companies do not succeed.  So VC funding is just a sign the VCs think there is a 10% chance of success.

3.) Venture capitalists are people too, and they can be swayed by their emotions.  A lot of people in technology love space and they can let their love get in the way of rational decision making.

4.) Previous failed space launch start-ups have managed to bring in lots of venture capital.  The original Kistler and Beal burned through a lot of VC money before failing.

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