Expire Before Launch: Will lack of Launch Capacity Stall the Future of the LEO Satellite Industry?

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Executive Summary

The significant growth in the satellite industry and increased demand for satellite services have driven rival satellite operators to request authorization to deploy more satellites. Since 2017, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has granted licenses for the deployment of more than 17,000+ Low Earth Orbit (“LEO”) satellites. Summit Ridge Group’s analysis shows that the number of satellites approved for launch could exceed 31,000 at the end of 2030. To ensure timely use of satellite authorizations, the ITU, as well as national authorities such as the FCC in the U.S., have BIU1 deadlines. However, launch capacity has not increased in proportion to new satellite authorizations. There is simply not enough launch capacity to launch all authorized satellites. The disconnect between authorized satellites that must be launched by specific dates and the lack of available launch capacity threatens to disrupt the industry and create significant harmful downstream consequences.