The Launch Market

 

Description of the Market

Spacefleet Ltd intend to market launches only in the sub-orbital sector of the space-launch market. "Sub-orbital" flights are excursions into space, i.e. to heights above 100km, but without going into orbit. This sector consists of:

  • Space tourism flights
  • Engineering and scientific payload launch and return

 The engineering and scientific payload launch and return is the market's sub-sector requiring the smallest capital investment. There are no commercial opportunities for vehicle deployment at smaller scale than this.

The customers for sub-orbital space launch are:

  • University space science departments, including astronomy
  • University physics and engineering departments
  • Space research institutions
  • National space agencies

The common requirements for sub-orbital payload launch are for:

  • a period of micro-gravity lasting a few tens of minutes
  • access to the space environment

Sub-orbital launches are further segmented by:

  • apogee (the maximum height of the flight trajectory)
  • launch mass
  • payload dimensions

whether payload is retained in the launcher or jettisoned to land by parachute.

Market potential and development

The research experimental payload sub-sector of the sub-orbital space launch market sector is worth approximately $60M, worldwide, with individual launches costing, typically, $1M, using expendable rockets. We feel that a conservative estimate would be for an initial capture of at least 10% of these "sounding rocket" launches, i.e. six launches per year. We set this number, taking into account the likelihood that existing customers may be initially wary of entrusting their payloads to a new service-provider.

However, we expect that the considerable reduction in launch cost that we will achieve with our vehicle will, of itself, attract new customers, who had not previously been able to consider sub-orbital launch on cost grounds.

We are expecting to be charging, initially, not more than $400,000 per launch, and, if all proceeds as expected, will be able to make further reductions in that price, to well below 10% of that for a launch with an expendable rocket. Note that, unlike expendable launches, we can bring the payload back to a pin-point landing, thus eliminating the need for a payload recovery operation.

 

 

 

 

 

Competition

The companies that intend to provide sub-orbital launch services include the following, of which none has a working service at the present time.

  • Masten Space Systems (In development)
  • Tranquillity Aerospace (In design stage)
  • Blue Origin (In development)
  • Virgin Galactic (Primarily space tourism, testing)
  • Copenhagen Suborbitals (Primarily space tourism, in development)

Although there are numerous launch organisations, and a large number of launchers available, there are no re-usable launch systems available today. Therefore, we do not expect to face significant competition on cost, until competitor organisations have begun to construct and operate their own launch vehicles. By the time this occurs and is significantly affecting our revenue, we expect to be well into a further phase of development for larger launchers.

Additionally, our EARL vehicle is designed to be easily extensible, by the addition of booster modules of near-identical design to the original EARL, differing only in having no payload-carrying capacity. The figure below illustrates the concept. The boosters lift the payload-carrying hull between them until their propellant is exhausted, after which they separate and glide back to a runway landing, and the payload-carrying hull ignites its engines and continues aloft.