Future of Satellites

Within the next decade or so 100s of large satellites and about 2,000 micro and nano satellites will be launched into Earth’s orbit. Read on to discover where Athena, our robot, thinks there are opportunities and risks associated with a burgeoning space industry.

Athena’s forecast
Start year: 2015
Likely Tipping point: 2027
Likely End year: 2050
Likely Impact $: Billions
Likelihood: 65%
Regions affected: The World
Most affected sectors: Aerospace & Defense, IT, Energy, Manufacturing, Construction, Media and Entertainment, Food and Agriculture

What is changing?


  • SpaceX will launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets into space for a second time and deliver a commercial satellite into space.
  • A proprietary network of ground stations around the world will allow Airbus engineers to control orbit raising operations until the satellite reaches geostationary orbit.
  • Russia and China continue to pursue weapons systems capable of destroying satellites on orbit, placing US and others’ satellites at greater risk in the future.
  • Boeing’s ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite launched into orbit and will provide the US and six allied nations with increased communications capabilities to prevent, protect against and respond to attacks.
  • Arianespace will use its expendable Ariane 5 rocket to launch two commercial telecom satellites into orbit from the spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone.
  • China’s home-grown BeiDou Navigation Satellite System will expand its footprints to Sri Lanka.
  • Galileo will be fully operational in 2020 with a total 24 satellites.
  • There will be 100,000 space sector-related jobs available in the UK by 2030.


  • Satellites will play a vital role as the world’s mobility patterns change from driver-operated to autonomous vehicles.
  • Future satellites will focus on ocean data and Earth’s atmosphere.
  • 370 small satellites are expected to be deployed into low- or medium-orbit for communication services and Earth observation imagery which would represent a yearly market of $1.6 billion on average over the next decade.
  • The majority of Planet’s orbiting camera platforms have been ejected from the International Space Station in orbits that do not fly over the entire globe while the satellites going up from India will launch into polar orbit.
  • The expanded fleet of satellites will send over 3 terabytes of data a day to more than 30 receiver stations spread around the Earth.
  • UK space businesses will benefit from £70 million funding from the UK Space Agency to develop satellite projects to tackle problems such as flooding, drought and deforestation in developing countries.
  • New satellite technology designed by Forest Trust and Airbus Defense and Space, the system (called ‘ Starling ‘) will use radar and high resolution imagery to ensure plantations abide by the moratorium on deforestation, and will be adopted by Wilmar, Nestlé, Ferrero and others.
  • A mix of high-tech satellite data and brightly coloured cartoons is helping subsistence farmers around Riberalta in Bolivia’s northern Amazon pick the best time to burn off their land and reduce the risk of uncontrolled blazes.
  • German insurance company Munich Re is leveraging geospatial satellite data to accurately calculate costs and risks related to wildfires and to gain insights into the future probability of wildfires.
  • A new national positioning system accurate to between 2cm and 10cm will boost Australia’s economy by $73 billion or more over the next 20 years.
  • Australia’s investments in positioning systems will not only pay off in higher agricultural exports but will create export business opportunities and new jobs in digital agriculture to aid the transition from sectors of the economy impacted by digital disruption.
  • Six families of Sentinel satellites will make up the core of EU’s Copernicus environmental monitoring network.


  • The overall demand for satellite data will grow annually at 30% between now and 2025.
  • The global market for new launch technology for small satellites will be worth £25 billion over the next 20 years.
  • In the decade to come Russia will face strong competition from China for the commercial launch of satellites for developing countries.
  • The global market for new launch technology for small satellites will be worth £25 billion over the next 20 years.
  • Boeing Co. is taking steps to build satellites more quickly through new production practices that will rely more on 3-D printing and involve fewer workers.
  • Boeing will support GPS IIA and IIF satellites on orbit for the next five years.
  • Paris-headquartered space consultancy Euroconsult anticipates that a total of 560 satellites will be launched by 40 commercial companies from 2016 to 2025.
  • Revenues from cellular and satellite connectivity fees will reach more than $138 million in 2017.


  • 4500 more satellites will be sent into low-Earth orbit to enable global broadband coverage.
  • The NASA-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite, a dual L-band and S-band satellite (launch planned for 2019-2020) are expected to become available in the near future.
  • SpaceX will first deploy 1,600 satellites to offer Internet access in the U.S.



  • SpaceX is launching a key piece of NASA technology that could one day allow satellites to repair other spacecraft already in orbit.
  • The company Raytheon is currently developing an updated version of the Tomahawk missile that could have two-way satellite communication with objects on the ground.
  • The kind of assembly and augmentation that SSL and DARPA are working on will mean that future satellites could be more modular.
  • IceCube will demonstrate technologies that may pave the way for future satellites to measure clouds and aerosols suspended in Earth’s atmosphere.
  • The use of satellite imagery to spot mine fields means that even Afghanistan, the most-mined country in the world, could be cleared by 2023.
  • Researchers at Brazilian air and space institute IAE are developing proprietary rocket technology that could deliver micro-satellites into low orbit by 2019.
  • The tens of thousands of satellites and the explosion in robotic capability could provide the economic momentum to rapidly transform the Earth moon system and near earth asteroids into a rapidly developing economy.
  • India’s successful launch of a record breaking 104 satellites into Orbit could serve as a wake-up call for China’s commercial space industry and there are a number of lessons for the country to learn.

How will the advent of commercial weather satellites affect everyone?
Will the new availability of sophisticated, satellite-based technologies, coupled with the democratization of online data about the health of our environment, help ensure that these positive advancements live up to their potential to protect the oceans?
In the brave new world of satellite driven tractors and robotic milking parlours, where will rural communities and cultures fit?


Sentiment Analysis

Topic map

Learn more

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Time taken by Athena: 35 minutes


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