What Are The Aerospace Industry Trends in 2024?

Sophia Barnett

Content & Technical Writer

June 27, 2024

AerospaceAerospace Industry TrendsNewSpaceSpace Startups

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The aerospace industry is experiencing significant growth and is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. Several factors fuel this growth, including the rise of NewSpace companies, commercial solutions, increased private investment, and technological advancements.

NewSpace companies are private companies developing innovative and cost-effective technologies for space exploration and commercialization. These space startups are developing less expensive launch vehicles, bigger satellite constellations, and space tourism ventures, opening up new avenues for exploration and commercialization.

The rise of the NewSpace economy creates many job opportunities, especially among startups. Some high-profile space startups expanding their staff include Relativity Space, ispace, SpinLaunch, and Capella Space. This trend is expected to continue as more aerospace companies enter the market and expand their operations.

This article will highlight the aerospace trends shaping the space industry and explore the rise of NewSpace companies and the technologies they are producing.

What is NewSpace?

NewSpace is a growing sector of the space industry that focuses on commercializing space through new technologies. NewSpace companies are lowering the cost of launching payloads into orbit by developing smaller, more efficient satellites and using cost-effective business models like ride-sharing and data-as-a-service (DaaS).

This shift has opened space exploration to a wider range of players and created diverse revenue streams within the space value chain. NewSpace has also enabled the creation of new revenue streams, including space tourism and asteroid mining. 

Top aerospace industry trends in 2024

NewSpace companies are focused on making satellites smaller

The miniaturization of satellites in low earth orbit reduces long-term costs. Smaller rockets flying at lower altitudes need less fuel, have simpler structures, and are cheaper to manufacture than larger rockets flying at higher altitudes. These bigger rockets carry many smaller satellites, allowing more paying customers to share the costs of engineering, building, and launching. 

Gilmour Space Technologies relies on Duro PLM to develop small-lift launch vehicles like the Eris three-stage rocket. The company is making space more accessible for smaller aerospace companies and organizations developing compact satellites. Gilmour Space encourages the development and deployment of more versatile tools for applications such as Earth observation, communication, and scientific research by focusing on the small satellite market and offering affordable and reliable launch services.

The growth of LEO

Technological advancements (additive manufacturing, digital engineering, and AI), the acceleration of broadband satellite constellations, which decrease the cost-per-kg to orbit, global competition, and US government are providing the foundation for LEO growth.

LEO satellites offer advantages over their higher-orbit counterparts, including lower latency for communication services, better resolution for Earth observation, and high-speed internet connectivity. As the technology matures and costs reduce, the number of LEO satellites is expected to increase significantly in the coming years.

Astranis produces microGEO communications satellites and recently unveiled the Omega micro GEO broadband satellite, evidence of the satcom industry’s shift to LEO. Another space startup, Rocket Lab, provides launch services for small satellites using its Electron rocket and operates its own Photon spacecraft for various missions in LEO. 

Astranis Omega micro GEO broadband satellite platform. Image - Astranis

Duro customer Muon Space creates, develops, and manages LEO satellite constellations for Earth intelligence missions. Other NewSpace companies are developing more affordable launch vehicles tailored for small satellites:

  • Astra’s Rocket 4 is designed to launch small satellites, such as CubeSats, into low Earth orbit, providing a more affordable option for small payloads.
  • ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket caters to the growing demand for launching small satellites and payloads into orbit, offering a flexible and mobile launch solution.
  • The E-2 liquid rocket engine, developed by Launcher, has been touted as the most powerful engine for small launches.

Products are now being manufactured in space

A key development in advanced space manufacturing is the shift towards in-space production applications (InSPA). This involves manufacturing products directly in the space environment rather than launching them from Earth, enabling more affordable, sustainable, and self-sufficient operations in the space environment. This approach offers several advantages:

  1. Reduced Launch Costs: Manufacturing in space eliminates the need to transport heavy, prefabricated components, significantly reducing launch costs and making space missions more economically viable.
  2. Resource Utilization: InSPA can leverage in-situ resources, such as lunar or asteroid materials, further reducing the reliance on Earth-based supplies and enabling sustainable space exploration.
  3. Microgravity Advantages: Utilizing space’s unique microgravity environment allows for the creation of novel materials and products with properties not achievable on Earth.
  4. Flexibility and Adaptability: In-space manufacturing enables on-demand production and customization, facilitating repairs, upgrades, and the construction of large-scale structures in space.

Varda Space Industries is developing technologies to enable in-space production of various products, from pharmaceuticals to spacecraft components. NASA and other space agencies are actively researching and investing in InSPA capabilities to support future space missions.

Varda W-1 capsule - first commercial orbital reentry vehicle to land on the soil of any planet.

Relativity Space is transforming how rockets are built by using 3D printing for rocket production, streamlining manufacturing processes, reducing costs, and enabling rapid iteration. This could make access to space more affordable and accelerate space infrastructure development.

Increased space traffic demands collision prevention tech

The increasing volume of space traffic and debris poses a challenge to the sustainability of space activities. This congestion increases the risk of collisions and potential damage to valuable infrastructure and threatens the long-term viability of space exploration and utilization. As more satellites are launched into orbit and debris accumulates, solutions for managing this growing problem are needed. 

LeoLabs is an example of a company that’s addressing these challenges head-on. They specialize in space situational awareness, utilizing a network of radars to track objects in orbit and provide data for regulatory compliance by monitoring the movement of satellites and debris. LeoLabs enables operators to make informed decisions and maneuver their spacecraft to avoid potential collisions.

LeoLab’s West Australian Space Radar (WASR). Image - Leo Labs

Duro customer Orbit Fab has developed in-space refueling technology, offering another solution for mitigating the risks associated with space debris. By extending the lifespan of satellites via gas stations in space, Orbit Fab reduces the need for new launches, decreasing the overall volume of space traffic and minimizing the risk of collisions and debris generation. Refueling can facilitate the removal of defunct satellites and debris, as service spacecraft can be replenished with fuel for extended operations. OrbitFab was recently recognized as a top-five space activity management startup.

Development of smart propulsion systems

Smart propulsion is quickly becoming a defining trend in the space industry due to its potential to increase spacecraft maneuverability, extend mission durations, and enable access to previously unreachable destinations by increasing fuel efficiency and reducing overall mass.  

Momentus and Stoke Space are at the forefront of smart propulsion. Momentus specializes in in-space transportation services, using water plasma propulsion technology for last-mile satellite delivery and other space missions.

Momentous Ardor thruster, a multi-kilowatt propulsion system. Image - Momentus

Stoke Space develops fully reusable launch vehicles for advanced propulsion solutions to reduce costs and make space more accessible. The company’s new full-flow, staged-combustion (FFSC) rocket engine is at the “pinnacle of rocket propulsion technology due to fuel efficiency and in-flight performance.

Space missions have increased by 152% in 4 years

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, “U.S. launches increased 152 percent from 31 in 2018 to 78 in 2022.” 

This increasing number of commercial and scientific space missions is driven by the growing accessibility and affordability of space technologies by space startups like Firefly Aerospace and iSpace. Firefly Aerospace develops small and medium-sized launch vehicles that launch small satellites and payloads into space. This demand is fueled by commercial applications such as communication, Earth observation, and scientific research.

iSpace is a Japanese-based company dedicated to lunar exploration and resource utilization. Its missions aim to advance scientific understanding of the Moon and explore the potential for lunar resource extraction.

Satellite orbits the moon. Image - iSpace

However, with more space missions come more challenges, particularly delays from technical issues and developmental setbacks. For example, the James Webb Space Telescope launched over a decade late and was $6.5 billion over budget, while the Mars Sample Return and Artemis missions faced delays of at least two years and one year, respectively, with budget overruns of $6 billion and $4.3 billion, respectively.

The adoption of modern tools like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, enables aerospace companies to mitigate these challenges and increase the success rate of their missions. PLM software enables better collaboration, data centralization, and accurate lead time estimation, which ensures timely and cost-effective project execution.

Space mining is a solution to Earth’s scare resources

The space mining industry is gaining momentum due to valuable resources like metals and water ice found on asteroids and the Moon. These resources could be used for various purposes on Earth and support future space missions. As space missions become more affordable, companies and governments invest in exploring and utilizing these resources, creating economic growth and technological progress.

AstroForge co-founders Jose Acain & Matt Gialich. Image - CNN, Edward Carreon

By mining platinum group metals from asteroids and refining them in space, Duro customer Astroforge sources materials for use in space. This approach could make space missions more efficient and cost-effective by eliminating the need to transport materials from Earth. Their focus on refining metals in space could lead to self-sufficient space-based industries, supporting the expansion of human activities in space.

There’s a growing demand for high-speed communication networks in space

Recent improvements in communication technology for space use have led to better communication methods. This is driven by the growing demand for reliable and high-speed communication networks in space, fueled by the increasing number of satellites, space exploration missions, and the rise of the commercial space industry.

Astranis’ small geosynchronous communications satellite. Image - Astranis

Astranis is building and deploying smaller, more affordable geostationary communication satellites that provide high-speed broadband internet access to underserved regions worldwide. Their satellites leverage technologies like software-defined radios to allocate bandwidth and adapt to changing demand. Astranis’ approach is disrupting the traditional satellite communication market by offering a more cost-effective and scalable solution that can expand coverage.

Space data helps predict weather patterns

Advancements in satellite technology, decreased launch costs, and the growing NewSpace industry drive the need for space data. High-resolution imagery, precise location data, and real-time environmental monitoring are just a few capabilities now accessible through space-based assets. These developments can transform industries from agriculture and energy to finance and insurance. The ability to monitor crop health, track asset movement, predict weather patterns, and assess risk is changing traditional decision-making and creating new opportunities.

Capella Space's third-generation satellite. Image - Capella Space

Capella Space’s advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites capture high-resolution images of the Earth’s surface 24 hours a day, producing a constant stream of data that can be used to monitor climate change and deforestation. This data can also enhance maritime safety and speed disaster response.

What do these trends mean for aerospace?

The aerospace industry is evolving, driven by the surge of NewSpace companies, a larger space workforce, and technological advancements. There are plenty of opportunities for commercial space ventures, from asteroid mining and in-space manufacturing to revolutionizing global communications and providing critical space data. 

However, challenges remain, including managing space traffic, the high costs of space exploration, and the need for continued innovation to maintain a competitive edge. To continue success in the future, space startups must remain agile, embrace cutting-edge technologies like smart propulsion and in-space production, and prioritize a sustainable space ecosystem.

The future of the NewSpace industry is moving towards more commercial ventures, thanks to small businesses providing affordable launch options. Other industry predictions include more private space launches, increased connectivity for bigger constellations, AI diagnostics for activity management, and origami antennas. 

Duro is thrilled to support aerospace companies in leading the industry by providing a single source of truth for their product data–from satellites to propulsion systems. 

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