SpaceX won the United States Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) approval for launching more than 1,000 satellites within the next six years. This is only one of the many corporate projects for satellite launches and space exploration.

What space could look like in the future?

The latest innovations

Since 2007, the satellite industry has grown from $122 billion business annually to well over a $260 billion. Technological improvements are seen as a major driver of this growth. Satellites have gotten smaller and more efficient, thanks to gyroscope and battery research.

In recent years, there has been more of a focus on launching Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites as opposed to industry standard Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) models.

GEO satellites sit at approximately 22,300 miles above the earth. These are typically very large satellites that maintain a large amount of coverage.

LEO satellites are only 500-1,000 miles above the earth. It takes significantly more LEO satellites to provide the same coverage as a GEO model. However signal delay is reduced since the signal has to travel 20-40 times less distance. This makes a fleet of LEO satellites much more attractive for communications and internet purposes.

Massive leaps in potential bandwidth mean that satellite technology is now a viable form of high-speed data transmission. From 2012-17, the bandwidth for the fastest satellites rose from 120 Gbps (GigaBits per second) to 200 Gbps. Satellites bandwidth is expected to reach hit 1Tbps (Terabit per second) by 2021.

Rocket technology improvements

Launching a satellite into orbit is still a challenge for both governments and private companies. Rocket technology basically stagnated from the introduction of the Saturn rockets in the 1960s, making it was prohibitively expensive to launch cargo into space. But now that private companies like SpaceX have gotten into the game, rocket launch costs have fallen, mostly because the rockets themselves can be reused.

Before SpaceX got into the game, it used to cost $43,180 per pound to send cargo into space. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has brought the cost down to $9,100 per pound. The lower payload cost allows new businesses and less wealthy nations to use satellite technology in ways they couldn’t have dreamed of only a few years earlier.

Corporate and governmental cooperation

The relationship between private companies and NASA is rather synergistic. NASA has used SpaceX to send instruments and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) for a fraction of the cost than if NASA conducted the launch. In fact, governments are private space enterprises’ largest customers.

SpaceX, founded in 2002, pioneered the use of reusable rocket technology, and manufactures some of the best rockets available. In fact, the Falcon 9 was used when the first private spacecraft docked with the ISS.

SpaceX is building an even larger and more powerful rocket called the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) that, theoretically, would be capable of taking both crew and cargo to Mars.

Founded in 2000 by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is focused more on commercial spaceflight tourism. Their proprietary rockets, the New Shephard and New Glen, are quite impressive. New Glenn has twice the available volume of any current launch vehicle. It is designed to last 25 flights, making it a low-cost, high-payload rocket sure to be used by space-faring nations across the globe.

There is plenty of room for both government- and privately-funded enterprises to work together toward the future of space exploration. Through the collaborative work between private companies and the governments of the United States, European Union, Russia, Japan, India, China, and more, even more technological advancements are likely.

AI and machine learning influence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms are two of the hottest topics in the business world today, with global spending on the technologies expected to be more than $35 billion in 2019 and nearly $80 billion by 2022.

AI and machine learning are integral to processing and analyzing satellite imagery. For example, AI programs from Hypergiant comb through mountains of satellite images to track agriculture yields and set growth projections. It also aids the oil and gas industries by using satellite imagery to discover otherwise unknown resource deposits, as well as monitor pipelines and track potential leaks.

As AI and machine learning become even more ubiquitous in the future, a growing number of satellite-based companies will bring competition to the marketplace.

The future of space exploration

The future appears bright for space travel. With the explosion in private companies and growing interest from venture capitalists, space and satellite technology are sure to advance. As such, lower payload launch costs should result in more satellites in orbit.

As satellite technology becomes an even more important part of our telecommunications infrastructure, X2nSat is helping the world explore and create that future. Founded 22 years ago, X2nSat offers a wide range of satellite-based telecommunications solutions. Contact X2nSat to learn more.

About the Author

Cara is the marketing coordinator at X2nSat. She's a social media maverick, a content genius, and an author in her spare time. Writing and marketing are her true passions.