Google, Facebook, SpaceX — these days, it’s more than just traditional satellite communications companies like Iridium and Intelsat that want to put satellites into orbit. And not just NASA. Even companies you don’t ordinarily think of as involved in satcom at all are looking for ways to put their own satellites into orbit.
Earlier this year, space market-research firm StratSpace produced a report noting global industry plans to put more than 1,100 satellites into orbit this year. But StratSpace expects only about 40% of that total to actually make it into orbit. That would be a bit ahead of the historical average of 25% of planned missions actually taking off, but still a discouraging statistic.
Part of this gap between what industry would like to put into orbit, and what it actually succeeds in putting into orbit, StratSpace says, is explained by problems with technical execution, failures at launch, or weather delays. Constraints involving launch schedules and traffic concerns downrange (wayward planes and boats getting in the way) also make launchers’ lives difficult, according to StratSpace.