NSR believes those new technologies will accelerate the split of the satellites in two categories: one driven primarily by payload maximization and the other driven primarily by savings.
For the 3rd edition of NSR’s upcoming report on Satellite Manufacturing and Launch Services, NSR will release a propulsion-type forecast as well as a payload power forecast for GEO satcom. NSR identified the following 4 payload power categories:
6kW - 9kW
9kW - 14kW
Altogether, the first and second categories (<6kW & 6-9kW) represent less than 50% of the satellites launched/to be launched in the 2011-13 period. They used to represent much higher shares but as bigger satellites became available, proposing better cost per TPE, those power categories became less competitive. This shift was stronger for the 6 to 9kW category whose cost per TPE, its competitive advantage, used to be the best.
Nowadays, satellites in this range have a low payload capability and end-up with a higher cost per TPE. They obviously have their pros (such as their reactivity and low risk level—low CAPEX), and they still represent a decent share of the market. Typically those satellites are built to address a small & specific niche or limited market.
The third and fourth categories (9-14kW & 14kW+) represent more than 50% of the satellites launched/to be launched in the 2011-13 period. Both categories are recent (14kW+ is nascent) and have seen their share growing fast thanks to a better cost per TPE/Gbps.
Nowadays, satellites in this range have a large payload capability and end-up with a lower cost per TPE. Typically those satellites are built to address large markets, often in competition with other satellites. The third category (9-14kW) used to be the one with the best cost per TPE/Gbps but, in the long run, platforms in the 4th segment (14kW+) should grab this competitive advantage.
The new technologies available, and especially Electrical-Propulsion for on-orbit raising, should accelerate the split between the first & second categories and the 3rd and 4th. For example, Boeing’s 702-SP platform main competitive advantage is cost savings through the use of a cheap launch vehicle. But the payload power is limited (<7.5kW).
NSR believes that bigger satellites will use Electric-Propulsion (full or Hybrid) in a different way, by pushing the envelope, to deal with the launch vehicle bottleneck. Launch services’ choice for satellites weighting more than 6.2-6.5 tons is reducing to a monopoly situation above a certain threshold (a situation that most satellite operators will avoid). Satellites using a higher share of Electric-Propulsion could be considerably more powerful (bigger payloads), thus proposing a lower cost per TPE/Gbps, while featuring stable masses, thus avoiding the launch vehicle bottleneck. Thus, Electric-Propulsion could be used to maximize the payload.
Both drivers are related to cost, but their paradigm and ultimate goals are different. One aims at decreasing the fixed costs of a project addressing a limited market. The other one, addressing large markets, aims at improving the product’s value (the throughput) through increasing its volume.
In choosing between Chemical, Hybrid or full Electric-Propulsion, satellite operators will be affected by a set of drivers, the strongest being the technology’s heritage and the satellite’s goal (replacement or new market?). Both have a strong impact in NSR’s forecast of GEO satcom propulsion-type.
by Stéphane Gounari
This article can be found here.
Information for this article was extracted from NSR's report Satellite Manufacturing & Launch Services 3rd Edition