Trend Analysis: Satellite Mega Constellations as Opportunity?

1 Februar 2021

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Andreas Knopp and his team will prepare an independent trend analysis for the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.

Satellite Mega Constellations are the pivotal concept of the “New Space Economy”. They consist of hundreds or thousands of small satellites in a low earth orbit, which is comparable to the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS). The satellites form an information network to deliver new services to end users on the ground including also airborne applications like in-flight entertainment. The by far most important service category of such networks is telecommunications, in particular the delivery of broadband internet services and the connection of sensors and actors in the Internet-of-Things (IoT). In this way, mega constellations are among the key elements of the next generation of telecommunication networks, which is frequently called “6G”. Space borne telecommunication networks are based on an unprecedented variety of technological innovations including radio equipment and signal processing as well as new manufacturing strategies and operational concepts. Moreover, data handling and resource management requires unmatched amounts of automation that is achieved via novel concepts of artificial intelligence. As a consequence, the needed funds to invest into mega constellations are significant and their economic success has not been proven yet.

Nonetheless, such constellations offer manifold opportunities for the space industry along the entire value chain, and also end users might benefit from new services such as broadband internet in remote locations or remote autonomous driving. Therefore, on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the Space Administration of the German Aerospace Center (DLR RfM) has awarded a contract to our team to investigate the trends and challenges as well as the opportunities and financial viability of satellite mega constellations for Germany.

Lead image: © iStockphoto / Hayri Er