Blog

How are satellites launched into space?

With the gradual lowering of the barriers of entry to launching a satellite, the next question for a lot of satellite builders should be: how do we get this into space?

While for a long time sending satellites into space was a task that was largely the territory of countries and large corporations, the arrival of companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are starting to make commercial spaceflight a normality.

So, just how are satellites launched into space?

How satellites are put into space

Satellites are launched into Earth orbit either on a dedicated launch or, for smaller satellites such as Cubesats, as a shared launch or as a piggyback launch with a larger satellite/vehicle.. Satellite propulsion systems are not nearly up to the task of allowing satellites to send themselves into space, and are instead intended to influence the path of a satellite once its orbital journey is underway.

The rocket ensures the satellites reach a high enough speed to keep them in orbit and makes the necessary adjustments to put it onto its intended course.

The International Space Station can also to help get some small satellites such as Cubesats into orbit. They can be transported to the ISS as part of a cargo load, then deployed into Earth orbit using a device like the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer.

In the future new methods of launching satellites into space may emerge, such as SpinLaunch, which uses an electric-based centrifuge to launch objects into space at a tenfold reduction in cost and a 4x reduction in fuel requirements.

Is it difficult to launch satellites?

The most difficult satellites to launch are arguably those going into geostationary orbit, which can only be achieved via launches from Earth’s equator, ensuring the right distance and speed of the satellite so that its orbit can match the planet’s rotation. In low earth orbit satellites are often launched into polar orbits so-called since they are launched so that their orbit goes over the north and south poles of the Earth.

Though the science and engineering has had lots of time to be tested and refined, satellite launches are always challenging and always a relatively high risk part of any space mission. Things can sometimes go wrong and lead to the loss of a satellite or to a satellite placed into the wrong orbit. However, fortunately, these things are rare.

Are satellite launches getting more popular?

With SpaceX alone launching 105 satellites in January this year, NewSpace – the rapidly developing push to turn space into a privatised commercial frontier – is thriving and so is the development of satellites for everyday use.

Satellites are set to only increase in demand. A recent market forecast anticipates 1,700 average launches every year by 2030. But how are satellites launched into space with everything they need to carry out their missions? By loading them with the right kind of software.

Bright Ascension satellite software kits

Bright Ascension’s mission-ready software ensures that your satellite goes into orbit with everything it needs to succeed. Our library of pre-validated software components allows you to pick and choose the functionality to meet your needs precisely.

To book a demo or request a free trial, don’t hesitate to contact us today.