The Space Race to LEO and Impact to Future Communication

The satellite industry is currently in the midst of a formative era comparable to the 1950’s Space Race. Driven by the ever-increasing need for high-speed communication, top tech companies are locked in high-stakes competition to establish a worldwide network of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, the prize being the lucrative prospect of delivering next generation internet access on a global scale. Considerable wealth and resources have been invested in the development of cost-effective launch vehicles and systems capable of reaching LEO, laying the groundwork to vastly expand the commercial utilization of space. This commitment to the potential of satellite communications can be seen in the contributions of industry visionaries such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Musk’s SpaceX is lowering cost per flight by rapidly building and turning around launch vehicles for reuse. This has allowed him to put more than 600 LEO satellites in orbit, with plans to establish a constellation of between 12,000 and 30,000 to deliver global low-latency high-bandwidth internet access. In like fashion, Bezos started Blue Origin to enable his e-commerce and cloud computing company Amazon to put over 3,200 satellites in orbit. Making the establishment of such large-scale LEO infrastructure both efficient and profitable requires constant innovation, particularly in the design of the essential components these systems rely upon.
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