Hello and welcome back to Max Q. I hope everyone had a restful holiday season and a celebratory New Year. Thanks again to all Max Q readers, whether you’ve been with me for many issues or you’re a recent subscriber. I’m glad you’re here.
I’ll be departing from my usual format for the newsletter. Instead, at the risk of totally having egg on my face at the end of 2023, I want to give some predictions for the forthcoming year and what I think it will have in store for the space industry.
2022 may have been the most blockbuster year for space in recent memory — since 1969, at least. The historic cadence of SpaceX, the launch of Space Launch System and the return of the Orion capsule, big technical demonstrations, ispace’s fully private moon mission … it’s been a momentous year.
There’s a lot to look forward to — so much, that next year could even outdo this one as the biggest for the space industry yet. But many questions still remain, especially about the shorter-term economic outlook, ongoing geopolitical instability and (ahem) some announced timelines that may or may not come to fruition. Here are two predictions — click the link above to read the rest.
1. More pressure on launch
It seems clear that there will be increasing pressure on the launch market as even more next-gen vehicles come online. We’re not just looking out for the heavy-lift rockets — like SpaceX’s Starship and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan — but a whole slew of smaller and medium-lift launch vehicles that are aiming for low cost and high cadence. These include Relativity’s Terran 1, Astra’s Rocket 4, RS1 from ABL Space Systems, Rocket Factory Augsburg’s One launcher and Orbex’s Prime microlauncher. As we mentioned above, space industry timelines are notoriously tricky (and this caveat applies to the whole post), but it’s likely that at least a handful of new rockets will fly for the first time next year.
Proving new vehicles drives prices down and increases inventory, meaning more launches and dates are available to private and government concerns — and incumbent players will need to work hard to keep the lead they’ve established.
2. Big developments from the U.K., China and India
The international space scene will continue to grow. While there’s much to look forward to from Europe, we’ve got our eyes on the United Kingdom, China and India. From the U.K., we expect to see the country’s first-ever space launch with Virgin Orbit’s “Start Me Up” mission from Spaceport Cornwall. We are also expecting a lot of activity from the Indian Space Research Organization, as well as the launch startup Skyroot there. China had a big 2022 — including completing its own space station in orbit and sending up multiple crews of taikonauts — and we predict there will be no slowdown next year as the country seeks to keep pace with American industrial growth.
How exactly the decentralizing of private space beyond a handful of major launch providers and locations will affect the industry is difficult to say, but it will definitely help diversify the projects and stakeholders going to orbit.
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