The Economics of Launch Vehicles: Towards a New Business Model
For over 50 years, the economics of satellite launchers has reflected the military and strategic interests of government customers. Launcher economics have generally been shaped by explicit or implicit subsidies and a range of market distortions. This business model is now under threat from new entrants offering to undercut established players. While this challenge may be in some degree more illusory than real, there is sufficient novelty in the new approach to disturb established launch service providers. A more disruptive threat is possibly on the far horizon of innovation. There is the prospect—although highly problematic at this stage—of a fully-fledged technological transformation in accessing space. Radically new technologies could revolutionise the economics of space operations—the equivalent of the jet engine’s impact on air travel.