Team Out of Town Blog Hub (www.outoftownblog.com) – Could a new rocket design be the future of space launches? Rocket startups working on micro launcher technology think that bigger doesn’t always mean better with their agile, bespoke launch solutions.
The Microlauncher: A New Way to Explore Space?
Size matters in the race for future space achievements. As space looks to become a vital frontier in the future of telecommunications and internet infrastructure, clients are looking into the most efficient and timely launch solutions that will put their satellites in the sky. Technology developers in a wide range of sectors are banking their futures in developing online innovations. The Internet of Things is set to revolutionize everything from traffic control to energy supply and future technologies like self-driving cars. These breakthroughs are certain to change the face of civilization for coming generations, but their success is predicated on the availability of fast internet access at all times. Just as reliable real-time internet access will form the foundation of these industries, will reliable and agile access to launch solutions like the micro launcher underpin the space industry’s growth?
The only way the internet supply can keep up with demand will be through broadband access offered by small satellite technology. Similarly, economic growth in the developing world will also hinge on reliable internet access. Communication satellites will be integral to keeping people connected in countries that don’t have a robust physical infrastructure to allow this. It’s clear, then, that a lot is riding on the ability of technology providers to put their satellites in space to allow this technological development to become a reality.
Micro Launcher to Democratize Space Access?
Commercial rocket startups are trying to feed this demand, with resourcefulness and appetite often outweighing those of traditional state space agencies. The growth of the space sector has not escaped investment groups who are eager to get an early start on the new gold rush of future space. They are on the hunt for innovative solutions that will prove vital in the development of technological infrastructure in near-Earth space. One such solution that could have a huge role to play in this future is the micro launcher.
Conventional launch solutions today mostly involve microsatellites being launched as payloads onboard large-scale vehicles. The rideshares offered by these companies can become costly and often fall victim to delays, as the scale of these launches inherently limits agility. However, as far as the kilo-to-cost ratio, they still remain the cheapest means of transporting a small satellite payload into orbit. This could all change in the nearest future, though, as dozens of firms are working on developing micro launcher technology.
Taxi vs Bus
Some in the field have likened the differences between large rockets and micro launchers to that of taking a bus or a taxi. A bus will be cheaper, but a taxi is likely to get you to exactly where you want to go more quickly. This promise of convenience and flexibility may be enough to convince some clients to entrust their payloads with smaller boutique micro launcher rocket startups offering a shorter turnaround on launch orders.
The micro launcher services aim to offer clients more flexibility in other areas as well. Clients who entrust their payloads with big rocket companies generally have little say about the specifics of the orbiting process, as the rockets travel a trajectory set by the big companies launching them. In contrast, micro launchers could offer clients more choice over where their microsatellites end up and at what level of height they’re deployed in low-Earth orbit.
Like the bigger launch companies, some micro launcher developers are looking into ways to reduce costs by improving rocket components’ reusability and incorporating 3D printed parts into their designs. But many other micro launcher rocket startups assert that micro launchers will never beat larger rockets on price because they don’t need to. Companies that rely on getting their microsatellites into space are less likely to settle for a rigid schedule and lack of flexibility offered by the bigger launch providers. If getting their payloads into low-Earth orbit early gives them an advantage over their competitors, paying extra for a more prompt launch that delivers their microsatellites to exactly where they want will be a price that many firms will be happy to pay.
The growth of the commercial space sector shows no signs of slowing and is likely to rise in value as technological innovation helps produce more space technology solutions that can help address the challenges we face here on Earth. The logistics of delivering these technologies will necessitate variegated scales of launch solutions and likely drive increased demand for agile micro launchers. Undoubtedly, large-scale rockets will still have a major role to play in the sector’s future: it’s unlikely that a micro launcher could ever transport major new components to the International Space Station, for example. But just as the new space race has been defined by commercial companies overtaking larger and more established space agencies with agile innovation, so too could the micro launcher prove that bigger isn’t always better. Do you think the micro launcher will overtake big rockets in commercial popularity? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!