SLOTD4.0 Market Study

February 09, 2021 – Shahrokh Khodabakhshi

SLOTD4.0 Market Study

SLOTD4.0, short for “Structure and lightweight construction optimized standard payload module and satellite bus connection for the transfer of technology demonstrations into Space and Industry 4.0 compliant processes”, is a joint project between the German industry and university funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and supervised by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Space Administration.

Within SLOTD4.0 three main areas are in focus:

  • Modularity: The applied system architecture enables high flexibility through all project phases.
  • Standardization: The satellite bus, payload module and coupling interface enable considerable cost reductions in manufacturing and integration.
  • Digitization: A software-based end-to-end service enables the centralized management of all customer and mission-relevant information.

In order to better assess the development activities and project achievements, a market analysis was carried out to identify the needs of potential payload owners. In the following, we discuss some of the main findings of a survey that was carried out.

discuss some of the main findings of a survey that was carried out.

Main Findings

The survey was split into 3 sections to identify requirements within the areas of Mission and Launch Requirements, Spacecraft Technical Requirements and Service Requirements. For the purpose of this article, we would like to point out only some of the results which we find very interesting.

Participants were asked about the purpose of their payload to get a rough understanding of the market and almost half of the participants stated their payload purpose to be a technology demonstration (IOD/IOV) while another third of the participants payloads is to realize an Earth Observation Mission. For two-third of the cases a mission duration of 1-5 years is desired while only one-third requires a less or longer mission duration.

 

The specifications of the payload themselves gave us an indication on how a potentially suitable spacecraft must be developed. 75% percent of all payloads have a mass of 20kg or less. Equally distributed within the mass categories of 1kg to 5kg, 5kg to 10kg, and 10kg up to 20kg. Further, a significant trend towards bigger payloads is identified if we look at the payload volumes rated to be useful for the payload owner.

Considering Moore’s Law, the computer chip performance and along with it the processing power of technologies doubles every 18 months. Spacecrafts are no exception creating the need for increased onboard data processing. This is also reflected in the survey in which over 85% of the participants stated that onboard data processing is of high importance for their applications.

While payload technologies tend to be more complex and powerful than before, you would expect companies to be more conservative when it comes to risk-taking. But contrary to this expectation the survey results show a trend towards a willingness to take higher risks for space missions when a potentially higher risk results in lower costs.

In recent years, we have seen a strong trend towards miniaturisation in the space industry through the intensive development of CubeSat technologies. This development trend was mainly driven by the high launch costs. However, launch costs have also fallen drastically in recent years and development trends indicate that they will fall even further. The question now is whether further miniaturisation of satellite technologies is still necessary to the same extent as before. The results of this survey may indicate that the trend of miniaturisation is decreasing, and payloads are again increasing in size and mass.

However, the majority of participants in this survey were European and therefore this thesis may only be applicable to this market.

What is your opinion on the market development regarding payload size, payload mass, processing power and launch costs? We would be very happy to receive your feedback and open the discussion!