The increased reliability of smallsat is mainly due to the increased number of satellite launches. The initial study between 2009 to 2013 surveyed 244 smallsats, while during the next five years, 1208 smallsats were launched despite a dip in the middle of the decade due to successive launch failures.
FREMONT, CA: Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of small satellites and their percentage completing their missions. Recently, the Aerospace Corporation presented a study at the 34th Annual Small Satellite Conference, which revealed that 87 percent of the small satellites launched between 2009 and 2018 had successfully completed their missions. Small satellites are those that weigh under 500 kilograms. An earlier study had shown that only 76 percent of small satellites launched between 2009 and 2013 were successful.
The increased efficiency is a sign of the growing maturity and dependability of the smallsat industry. The study shows that 85 percent of the small satellites launched since 2013 have completed their missions. The data does not include those satellites that are in their prime mission and those that were lost due to launch failures. Larger small satellites tend to have a higher efficiency rate than smaller ones. According to the study, 96 percent of satellites that weighed between 220 and 500 kilograms were successful. This is believed to be due to a low-risk posture of larger small satellites and the use of better quality materials.
The majority of smallsats that fail tend to do so in the early stages of the mission, a phenomenon referred to as infant mortality in engineering. According to Kara O’Donnell, the lead author of the study, the infant mortality rate of the smallsats is more likely in the smaller smallsats, and if the satellite can survive the first two months, it is likely to survive the entire duration of the mission. Failures of communications and power systems are believed to be the leading cause of smallsat failures, while the reason for a quarter of smallsat mission failures is still unknown.
The increased reliability of smallsat is mainly due to the increased number of satellite launches. The initial study between 2009 to 2013 surveyed 244 smallsats, while during the next five years, 1208 smallsats were launched despite a dip in the middle of the decade due to successive launch failures. Constellation operating company for Earth-imaging satellites, Planet, has played a significant role in the growth of the smallsat industry. The company accounted for 369 satellites surveyed for the study. During the study period, there has also been a steady rise in the number of first-time manufacturers.
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