An interesting report was published in August 2022 entitled “Nanosatellite Launch Forecasts – Track Record and Latest Prediction”. The report is currently available for download, a summary of the contents is below.
After almost 300 CubeSats were sent to space in 2017, the following 3 years saw a continued decline. While 2021 set a new record of about 326 nanosatellites launched, most published forecasts and expectations from the last 10 years about the growth about CubeSats have not come to fruition. This paper attempts to answer the question why and make a new prediction based on scheduled missions and historic trends.
First part of the paper presents the latest nanosatellite and CubeSat launch statistics. Out of over 3400 entries in the database, 2068 nanosatellites or 1893 CubeSats have been launched as of August 1, 2022. Total estimated mass of launched CubeSats is only ∼7428 kg (4952UÖ1.5 kg), which is less than a batch of 60 Starlink spacecraft. Second part focuses on the subset of nanosatellites flying beyond the low Earth orbit and 79 missions with orbits from MEO to heliocentric have been listed with 15 of them launched to space.
Third part of the study collected small satellite launch forecasts from multiple organizations and compared them to historical results. Reasons for the divergence were discussed. Launch delays are one of the causes for some years, but most of the growth was supposed to come from commercial CubeSat constellations and nearly all of them have not yet happened at scale or are transitioning to larger satellites.
Last part of the work created a new CubeSat launch forecast for the next 6 years. This is an update to the previous predictions by the author in early 2018 and 2020. We predict that there will be 2080 nanosatellites launched from the beginning of 2022 to the end of 2027.Nanosatellite Launch Forecasts – Track Record and Latest Prediction, Erik Kulu