[amsat-bb] Interesting article from the BBC

David - KG4ZLB kg4zlb at gmail.com
Wed Sep 8 08:57:56 PDT 2010

  The ever growing flock of space 'birds'

The space above us is about to get a lot more crowded.

A fascinating report from Euroconsult [220KB PDF] 
a research and analyst firm specialising in the satellite sector, has 
released a forecast for how many "birds" it expects to see fly between 
now and the end of the decade - 1,220 satellites.


That's a lot of spacecraft...and a lot of rockets that will be needed to 
put all those satellites in orbit.

It works out at an average of 122 satellites per year, which is up 
significantly on the average annual rate of 77 satellites seen in the 

It's one more indication I guess of just how important space has become.

In money terms, Euroconsult reckons the manufacturing and launch of 
those 1,220 satellites will generate revenues of some $194bn worldwide.

Rachel Villain, director for space for Euroconsult, is the editor of the 
report. She told me:

    "About two-thirds of these 1,220 satellites are for governments, and
    that of course means the commercial sector will represent the other
    one-third. Most government satellites are launched to low-Earth
    orbit [a few hundred km above the Earth], while commercial companies
    launch mainly in geostationary orbit [about 36,000km above the
    Earth]; and almost exclusively commercial operators will launch
    communications satellites into geostationary orbit. Government LEO,
    on the other hand, is quite diversified - for example, Earth
    observation, telecommunications, science, and also satellites to
    test the technology for future satellites and new applications or

A couple of good examples of demonstrators would be the recent launch by 
Norway <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10599774> of a small spacecraft that 
can track ships in its territorial waters; several nations are thinking 
of doing this. And in the next few weeks, you should also hear a formal 
announcement of TechDemoSat 
<http://www.sstl.co.uk/news-and-events?story=1549>, a small UK platform, 
funded by the government, which will prove several new sensors to study 
the Earth.

In China, the scale of space activity right now is most impressive. The 
China Great Wall Industry Corporation <http://www.cgwic.com/> which has 
the sole rights to provide satellites for the government says it has 100 
contracts for the next five years, meaning it will be launching 
something like 20 rockets a year.

Satellite chart

A couple of factors contributing to the upward trend are worth noting. 
One is that some of the big commercial TV satellite operators happen to 
be in that part of the cycle where they need to replace and upgrade 
their fleets.

And there are also some big constellations of satellites being rolled 
out mid-decade. Think about Galileo - Europe's new satellite-navigation 
system <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8442090.stm> which 
will put at least 18 satellites in a medium-Earth orbit (MEO - about 
23,000km up).

Think also about the satellite phone, messaging and internet operators 
who want to re-new, supplement or simply establish fleets of spacecraft. 
Comsat concerns like Iridium <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10212836>, 
Globalstar, Orbcomm, and O3B will between them loft 115 spacecraft.

The numbers inevitably highlight the subject of space debris and the 
need to remove redundant satellites from orbit in a timely fashion to 
reduce the risks of collision.

And it illustrates, too, the headache rocket companies will face this 
decade as they try first to ramp up launch rates to accommodate the rush 
to orbit, and then to rescale their efforts once the backlog has been 

For more (presumably including the illustrations that will not appear in 
this posting, click this! 

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