Space Markets Summary

The following is an attempt to summarize the size of each orbital market, its potential, and the key factors which would enable that market to change significantly. The sizes are a rough attempt to list kilograms to LEO per year; but even listing the current volume involves various problems of categorization and crunching data so I have made no attempt at precision; they are intended only as a rough guide. Disclaimer: oversimplifications are everywhere; for example some markets are global and some are not, for some markets kilograms per year is a fair way to measure them and for some dollars per year would more accurately depict the markets' worth to the providers, etc. See the pages for each market for more information. The word "reliability" is used to mean both completing the mission and doing it on schedule; in these contexts the two usually (not always) go together.

Market             1996 2001      Key factors
                   size guess
Communications     10^5 10^6  cost, new comm markets, new players
Military           10^5 10^5  new missions
Positioning        10^4 10^4  new countries
Science/Technology 10^5 10^5  budgets unlikely to increase much
Remote Sensing     10^4 10^5  commercial successes, regulation
Burial             10^1 10^3  customer interest
Manufacturing      10^4 10^4  research successes
Entertainment      0    10^3  entrepreneurship
Movies             0    0     entrepreneurship, reliability, probably cost
Advertising        10^1 10^3  customer interest
Novelties          0    0     entrepreneurship
Tourism            0    0     <$200/kg, reliability, market research
Settlements        0    0     cost, market research
Waste disposal     0    0     <$1000/kg, public acceptance
Mining             0    0     entrepreneurship, prospecting
Earth Transport    0    0?    noise, <$200/kg, reliability,
                              supersonic competition
Utilities          0    0     terrestrial competition, cost

If a market isn't listed here at all, it seems even less promising.

Other Summaries/Forecasts

Office of Commercial Space Transportation/COMSTAC

The US government Office of Commercial Space Transportation conducts market assessments (some of them done by an outside committee called COMSTAC), most of which are on their web site. Their methodology is conservative and they only consider new markets once they are pretty much done deals (for example, they did not consider LEO communications satellites until approximately 1994). Therefore, it is a pretty good forecast for launches in the next 1-3 years but beyond that should be considered more speculative (COMSTAC realizes this, see OCST, GEO, 1997, pages A-3 and A-4). Here is a comparison of the OCST GEO forecasts compared with the actual volumes:
GEO (number of payloads):

Year:   88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11
1993  (I haven't seen these numbers, but the average was 10.5)
1994  (I haven't seen these numbers, but the average was 17)
1995                         22 30 33 37 29 30 26 26 26 34 32 38 35
1996  (I haven't seen these numbers, but the average was 31)
1997                               33 39 40 34 33 30 27 30 29 30 31
1998                                  33 29 33 35 32 32 30 32 31 33
1999                                     33 31 39 31 29 29 31 32 32
2000                                        26 26 30 25 25 23 21 20 21 20 21
2001                                           24 28 32 33 30 30 29 32 34 33
2002                                              27 19 18 18 18 19 21 22 21 22
Actual   9  8 18 15 17 10 18 18 26 28 23

In 1995, there were two models; the "Higher Growth" one is shown. In 1997, the models for 1997-1999 represent a consensus model but the numbers for 2000 and beyond are merely an average of the individual models. The source for the "Actual" numbers is OCST, GEO, 1997, Appendix C.

Note the dramatic drop in forecasts for '99 (due largely to the Asian financial crisis; see the GEO 1998 report for discussion). This is a striking exception to the rule that the forecasts are accurate for 1-3 years in the future. A more systematic bias is that the actuals always tend to be slightly lower than the forecast because of schedule slips.


Euroconsult's forecasts also tend to get cited. I don't know a lot about them; there are a few references in Highlights of Space, 1995, Office for Outer Space Affairs, United Nations in Vienna.


KPMG has some publications which include some launch forecast information, although they are less detailed and discuss other areas like payloads and ground segments.

Teal Group

The Teal Group is a company founded in 1987 to research and publish reports, including one on space which includes market forecasts, pricing information for launchers, and other items. For more information see their official web site or, for example, "Teal forecasts $121 billion world satellite market through 2007", Teal Group Corporation News Release, reprinted in Florida Today Space Online, 13 Jan 1998, or "Lots of freight headed for space", Florida Today Space Online, 19 Feb 1998.

Paul Hans/G. Harry Stine

Much of the space activist community gets their numbers from Paul Hans and G. Harry Stine (circa 1996, I don't know whether this is still true). Their numbers are much higher than most forecasts. I've been meaning to go look up what has been published of their numbers, but I haven't gotten around to it yet, so I don't have much more to say until I do so.


The big aerospace companies have their own internal forecasts. These don't get published, but sometimes they'll talk about them somewhat. For example, in "Satellite services soar", Aerospace America, November 1996, page 28, Raymond Colladay of LockMart Astronautics is quoted as saying in November of 1995 that the LockMart forecast excludes LEO and MEO "not because of skepticism over their potential, but because they cause such large excursions in the database used for financial analysis. In this conservative approach, the LEO and MEO constellations are upside potential." Perhaps this statement speaks for itself; suffice it to say that this is a very conservative way of looking at the world (for many people, the constellations are part of the bread and butter and the upside potential is remote sensing, manufacturing, etc.).

This page is part of Jim Kingdon's space markets page.