LEO or Low Earth Orbit are those satellite systems that orbit between 400 and 1000 miles above the earth’s surface. These systems are mainly used in telecommunication email, video conferencing and paging. LEO systems move at extremely high speeds and are not fixed in space. LEO satellites can provide full coverage of the earth. They fly at approximately 17,000 mph compared to a GEO satellite, completing an orbit every 100 minutes. Many communications, navigations, space mission, and observation satellites are LEO satellites such as the International Space Station, which orbits at an altitude of around 350 kilometers and the Iridium network, orbiting at 777 kilometers above Earth. Low earth Orbit satellites and space stations are more accessible for crew and servicing. Placing a satellite into a LEO requires less energy, therefore, LEO is used for many communication applications, such as the Iridium phone system and others.LEO based satellites aids in successful communication than the cellular networks covering the entire range and emerging as a best alternative to LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT, and other LPWA technologies
Internet of Things (IoT) connections spurring a new wave for low earth orbit satellite connectivity IoT technology has established its presence in almost every commercial sector right from smart cities, smart buildings, manufacturing, and various other applications, thereby reaching a total installed base of more than 75 billion devices by 2025. IoT has also formed a strong base in agriculture and asset tracking solutions.Latency in data signal proves to be a harmful bug for various mission critical applications, as some of the countries rely on GEO satellites for voice communications the issue of latency persists resulting in a lag of 20 milliseconds thereby disrupting the operational efficiency. To curb such as scenario various governmental bodies are adopting LEO based satellites for eradicating this issue. As LEO based satellite are non-geosynchronous and will orbit the earth several times per day the overall operational nature turns out to be faster and tracking such a faster satellite requires large number of light weight antennas, with wide radio coverage. To achieve an efficient operational nature in terms of uninterrupted transmission, greater number of satellites also termed as “constellation” is needed, which in turn adds to operational and service cost, thereby creating an issue in the market growth.
However, 5G revolution is set to widen the scope of LEO satellites in the course of time period, as mobile network operators would primarily focus on densely populated regions for the deployment of its 5G infrastructure. However, there will be many areas that will not be covered by cellular 5G and here is the area where satellites would play a significant role. As 5G technology primarily focuses in providing higher speed and lower latency, there will be major preference towards LEO satellites than the Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites. With the adoption of low-Earth orbit satellite constellations, the problem of latency will effectively disappear. Additionally, the companies involved in the market scenario would prefer the adoption of Low earth orbit and medium earth orbit satellites, over the fibre optic cable to reduce the operational cost required in the integration of switches and bridges in the overall 5G network
The global LEO Satellite Communication market is classified into Below 50 Kg, between 50-500 Kg and Above 500 Kg. CubeSats are minuscule satellites, weighing between 1-10 kilograms. It utilizes commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components for their electronics and structure. It is chiefly designed for low earth orbit (LEO), allowing universities around the globe to use it for space research and exploration. Cubesats don’t weigh high; it reduces the fuel consumption of rockets that are used to launch the satellites. CubeSats are deployed directly from a spacecraft, rocket, or from the station itself, depending on the purpose. The satellite sector is witnessing significant transformation as more commercial and governmental entities are cashing in on constellations to introduce new satellite services on Earth. For the last few decades, electronic devices have experienced remarkable advancements in terms of reliability, performance, and cost-efficiency.
This trend influenced the satellite industry as well. Since the past few years, many companies have been entering the space sector and their activities are noticeably based on the usage of relatively inexpensive small satellites. This trend enables new companies to deliver services akin to those of companies that traditionally serve government agencies or public sector industries.Increasing availability of small-size satellites coupled with low-cost launches is leading to the escalating growth in the number of satellite-constellation programs, from which thousands of satellites orbiting in a low earth orbit work in tandem with each other for communications and remote sensing with excellent ground coverage.The costs of launching a heavy satellite are high with respect to the total cost of a space mission. The time required to manufacture a heavy satellite is also very high when compared to the small satellites. To launch the heavy satellites, the launch vehicles also require high fuel and it also mounts up the costs. However, small satellites do not consume fuel in a large amount as compared to the heavy satellites. Hence, owing to the low-cost features and reduced time, small satellites are gaining traction among the LEO satellite manufacturers
The global car recycling market is bifurcated into Commercial, Military and Others. Companies are increasingly launching a significant amount of low earth orbit satellites focusing on the increasing available bandwidth and global coverage for things such as communications, internet, and other IoT-enabled applications. LEO satellites are used broadly for civilian imaging and communications, with the ability to serve markets, including agriculture, telecommunications, shipping, and many others. Geostationary satellites are used for telecom communication applications and new innovations such as LEO satellites are disrupting the GEO satellite industry. In addition, it is anticipated that low earth orbit broadband satellites deliver a low-latency network dedicated to data transmissions from ships and offshore facilities. With the arrival and subsequent prevalence of 5G services, it is considered that the global mobile phone network will offer significantly more bandwidth for data. Hence, both 5G and Leo satellites are intended to provide the internet of things at sea. OneWeb and Iridium are collaborating to boost connectivity to maritime users. Both companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work together towards a combined service using low earth orbit satellites.
The army officials of the U.S army and Space Development Agency are exploring the broader use of LEO satellites for tactical purposes. Currently, many army units are using the Iridium LEO satellite communications service, and the army wishes to evolve the models. According to a research study by Telesat, there are approximately 2.3 million households in Canada lacking access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet due to the high cost of installing fibre-optic cables in remote regions. This prevents the Canadian population from participating and benefiting from the digital economy, which includes opportunities for education, job advancement, and access to healthcare. The government is utilizing various disruptive and innovative technologies to enhance rural connectivity and to ensure that Canadians in all areas of the country have access to the latest and advanced technologies
North America is a leader in terms of technological innovation, and the region’s populace is attracted to modern technologies. Hence, companies in the region are extensively investing in various sectors, including space, to provide advanced connectivity to users. The global space industry has been witnessing significant growth in recent decades as most of the countries and private companies are utilizing the outer space. Attributed to the fact that space can offer more opportunities and greater potential for many booming industries, including defense, aerospace, and IT and telecommunication, the global space industry is estimated to flourish in the coming years. North American countries such as Canada and the U.S. also contribute significantly to the growth of the space industry.The U.S. is a significant contributor to space technologies. The country currently operates a large fleet of missile detection, communications, electronic intelligence, technology, weather, navigation, and surveillance satellites. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the country’s major space program organization, primarily drives the country’s growth in this market. NASA is striving to move astronauts to the lunar vicinity, Mars, and beyond; it is estimated that the agency will leave the further development of low earth orbit to private sector companies, which will further pave the way for many companies to tap lucrative opportunities in the U.S. LEO satellite communication market. Moreover, NASA has implemented various measures to support private sector firms’ development of essential space infrastructure and transportation. For instance, the agency funded both SpaceX and Orbital ATK (formerly Orbital Sciences) for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to develop the capability to ferry cargo from earth to the ISS
Companies in Europe are leveraging low earth orbit satellites for advanced technologies such as 5G. Newtec, a Belgium-based company that designs, develops, and manufactures equipment for satellite communications, demonstrated 5G backhaul over a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite. It was conducted in association with the global satellite operator Telesat, a tier 1 European mobile operator, and the University of Surrey. The tests confirmed that LEO satellites could deliver effective backhaul transport, including for future 5G networks, paving the way for increasing bandwidth-demanding applications, augmenting the LEO satellite market progression. Moreover, Telesat is collaborating with Newtec to enable demanding low-latency 5G applications such as 4K video streaming. Europe is a leading country in the agriculture and transportation sector. It is anticipated that IoT communications based on LEO satellites will find applications in agriculture and asset tracking, majorly in airtime and aviation tracking.
Asia Pacific, In March 2019, India launched its low-earth orbit satellite with 28 other nanosatellites of other nations. The satellite is considered to have military applications. The government is focusing on building a constellation of communications satellites in the low-earth and medium-earth orbits (LEO and MEO) in order to deliver enhanced connectivity across the country with reduced latency. The entire expenses will be handled by the telecom industry. Business organizations and other enterprises in the country are concerned about the costs; a government built, and operated constellation will not be competitively priced. Low earth orbit satellites are indispensable for a country for wide-area surveillance and a 24-hour and near-complete coverage of the ocean. The Bay of Bengal, located in India, has great ocean depth, making it an ideal sea area for subsurface operations. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellites can provide a low-latency network dedicated to data transmissions from ships as well as offshore facilities
Visiona Tecnologia Espacial, Brazil’s emerging domestic satellite manufacturer, is considering satellite projects in low Earth orbit that would allow the company to showcase its manufacturing abilities. The global shift from geostationary satellites to LEO satellites is forcing manufacturers in the region to manufacture LEO satellites. The argentine space agency, CONAE, sent a radar satellite into low-Earth orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket in 2018. Argentina’s domestic satellite manufacturer INVAP manufactured the satellite. The company also got assistance from other agencies and domestic companies. NASA and the space agencies of Canada, Europe, and Italy also provided technical support
Countries in the Middle East, such as the United Arab Emirates, have expressed a growing interest in space, evidenced by the establishment of their national space agency and the funding being provided to satellite projects, in addition to the planned human spaceflight program. KhalifaSat, developed by Emirati engineers, is considered as an achievement for the country’s growing expertise in satellite technology. When the satellite is placed on the low earth orbit of approximately 613km, it will proceed to capture detailed images estimated to be capable of competing with the highest industry standards.
There is intense competition among the notable vendors in the market. Some of the prominent players include
Most of the companies in the market are focusing on adopting a ‘rideshare program’ for the small satellites. They focusis on the regularly scheduled launches to carry large batches of small satellites, rather than focusing on one large, primary payload. The aim is to serve the commercial market as it is growing rapidly, thriving to meet the requirements of small satellite operators. And creating a broadband network by leveraging several small satellites in the low-earth orbit
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