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  • Writer's picturePez Zarifian

Small Space is Booming

It is amazing how many space startups are popping up in and outside of the Valley. A large number of these startups who develop satellites are enabled by the miniaturized technology of Cube Satellites (CubeSats). Others cater to the needs of the CubeSat and Small Satellite (SmallSat) community. Examples of these are companies that manufacture Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) parts for SmallSats and even dedicated launch vehicles. Many joke that the only way to end with a big fortune in an aerospace business is to start with a bigger fortune! Funny and true for most space businesses who started before SmallSats became so cheap and so capable. Before you go on to tell me that SmallSats can't do everything the larger satellites can do, let me stop you from stating the obvious. No one claimed SmallSats can do it all and no one is trying to kill big aerospace here. The three primes (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman) will very likely remain the three primes in the years to come (unless they merge!) Yet so many people still perceive SmallSats as university toys and are uncomfortable with the idea that these lighter low-cost satellites are transforming the space business. Like it or not, in this business, size matters and SmallSats are the name of the game. Not convinced, here are some stats by Tauri Group published in's article "Space Startups Are Booming in the Mojave Desert":

"Of the 115 space-related companies started in the past decade and backed by investors, 84 focus on satellites... Just last year, those companies launched 100 microsatellites, up from 25 in 2011. Tauri projects that 2,400 nano- and micro­satellites will launch between 2017 and 2023."

Space is now receiving more attention from Venture Capitalists (VCs) than ever. SmallSats with lower mass, translate into lower development and launch costs, which in turn translate into lower investment dollars and lower risk for VCs. Still think SmallSats are just a bunch of university toys? Think again.

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