The entry point into space has greatly improved with the discovery of micro and cube satellites. New launch vehicle operators like Rocket Lab and SpaceX have come into play. Although manufacturers like Lockheed Martin tend to be more bespoke, they are also reviewing their traditional modes of operation. After all, the cost advantages offered by the mass production of satellites cannot be ignored.
As can be recalled, the first launch of commercial space satellites was in 1978. Ever since then, this sector has continued to grow and mature. In this context, as India is concerned, there are a few startups that focus on launch vehicles specifically.
It is, however, important to acknowledge that satellite internet constellations are capital intensive in nature. As much as one would like to democratise this segment, only deep-pocketed enterprises can invest in these ventures. To succeed in this space, therefore, it is important to have a robust business plan that continues to put in capital. For instance, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations entail substantial long-term investments, something that Starlink must be prepared to undertake.
Indeed, it is the private sector that has been pushing through many of the budgetary constraints faced by governments and nations across the world. For example, a lot of countries have recently contemplated the restriction of 5G to metropolitan cities since the rollout of 4G in rural areas has proven to be capital intensive. It is in such contexts that projects like Starlink offer an innovative alternative.
Craig McGilvray is the Regional Managing Director at Lockheed Martin Space. He previously served as the Head of Space Asia Pacific at Aon Corporation. This article is written by the Synergia Research team based on insights shared by the expert at the round table titled ‘Empowering the Internet through Space: Limitations, challenges, and the future’ on 21 January 2021.