SpaceWorks Review Finds Sharp Increase in Smallsat Launches

Excerpts From
2015 Small Satellite Market Observations
Full Presentation

Developed by:

Ms. Elizabeth Buchen
Director, Engineering Economics Group
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI)
Atlanta, GA


SpaceWorks’ 2014 Projection estimated between 140 and 143 nano/microsatellites across all sectors would launch globally in 2014; 158 nano/microsatellites were actually launched. This represented an increase of nearly 72% compared to 2013.


In 2014, 107 commercial nano/microsatellites (1-50 kg) launched and thousands of commercial small satellites (101-500 kg) are planned for launch over the next fifteen years. Recent multi-million and multi-billion dollar investments in various ventures confirm the commercial sector’s continued interest in the nano/microsatellite and small satellite industries.

2014 Highlights

With 92 launches, 2014 experienced the second highest annual launch rate since 1994

  • Planet Labs has launched 97 CubeSats to date (93 in 2014), the largest quantity ever contributed by a commercial company
  • Antares CRS-2 launched on July 13th with 32 CubeSats on board. While deploying the satellites, the NanoRacks CubeSat dispenser experienced two failures (one non-deployment event and one unplanned deployment), forcing 14 satellites to remain onboard the ISS
  • Since most nano/microsatellites (1 – 50 kg) launch in large clusters as secondary payloads, a single failure can result in significant loss; 30 nano/microsatellites were lost when Antares failed shortly after launch on October 28th
  • In just nine days, Planet Labs built and delivered two satellites to include on the SpaceX CRS-5; these satellites replicated the specifications of the 26 satellites lost on Antares

Multiple companies were rumored to be developing large communication satellite constellations in 2014

  • In early 2015, SpaceX and OneWeb (formerly WorldVu, Ltd.) confirmed their plans to pursue sizeable constellations of 4,025 and 648 satellites, respectively
  • Both companies have secured significant funding as well as launch arrangements

Notable Activities in Other Mass Classes

In 2014, 46 satellites launched in the 501 to 2,000 kg mass class, a 31% increase over 2013

  • Full deployment of the 72-satellite Iridium-NEXT constellation (66 operational satellites, 6 spares) is expected to be completed by 2017
  • Two of the eight O3b satellites launched in 2014 experienced power supply issues and will be used as spares; O3b is currently working on the next-generation system

Fewer satellites in the 2,001 to 5,000 kg mass class launched in 2014 compared to 2013 (26 in 2014 vs. 29 in 2013)

  • In September 2014, Laser Light Communications announced plans to deploy a constellation of up to twelve all-optical communications satellites; Ball Aerospace was selected to build the first eight
  • In order to fulfill its NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract commitments following the Antares failure, Orbital Sciences signed a contract with ULA to deliver up to two Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS using an Atlas V

More than half of spacecraft in the 5,001 kg+ mass class launched in 2014 were ISS-related (cargo and crew delivery); more than one third were communications satellites

  • SpaceX has seven remaining launches under the current CRS contract; CRS-2 winners have not yet been announced, but would deliver cargo to the ISS from 2017 to 2024
  • SES launched two communications satellites in 2014 (Astra-5B, Astra-2G); Ariane 5 ECA will launch SES-12 in 2017

For More Information

For additional information or to request a quote for our custom support packages and other market forecasting services, please contact:

Ms. Elizabeth Buchen | Director, Engineering Economics Group | SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. | 1+770.379.8006 |