Setting the Standard: Launch Units For The SmallSat Era

Developing a launch standard for the rapidly growing smallsat industry could yield benefits in capabilities and agility—yet obstacles may hinder widespread acceptance of a standard.

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Over the next ten years, more than 6,000 smallsats are expected to launch, an over six-fold increase from the previous decade. As the smallsat market grows, launch remains the main bottleneck to timely and affordable access to space. Currently, most smallsats are launched as secondary payloads when there is excess space in a launch vehicle. In addition, every deployment must be specifically designed for each smallsat. The capabilities and agility of the smallsat industry would be greatly enhanced by the implementation of a smallsat launch standard. This standard would address the physical properties of the smallsat (size, volume, vibrational modes) as well as the mechanical and electrical connections to the launch vehicle. This paper explores the benefits of defining a launch standard for medium class (25-200 kilogram) smallsats and provides options for its development.