CORDIS - EU research results

The first ground stations network enabling real-time, cost-effective, and easy access to micro/nanosatellite data

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LEAF LINE (The first ground stations network enabling real-time, cost-effective, and easy access to micro/nanosatellite data)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-02-29

Nanosatellites and microsatellites (1-50 kg) have allowed performing many operations that have been carried only by large satellites until few years ago and at a fraction of the cost, thanks to their components miniaturization and technology standardization. Earth Observation (EO) and the resulting downstream applications are the most likely domains to be disrupted by the small mission technology trend. However, the evolution of this market is facing technological and service limitations since the current solutions available for the Ground Segment do not enable satellite operators to get high amount of data, for a long timespan, at reduced costs, thus preventing the exploitation of the huge potential of small satellites data.
The Leaf Line system represents the unprecedented solution that will enable and boost the commercial exploitation of the microsatellite data. The amount of data that can be downloaded from a satellite strictly depends on the number of GSs available and on the frequency used. Leaf Space wants to set-up a distributed network of GSs for managing satellite data able to increase the connection time (up to 7 TB per day of downlinked data), increase the revisiting time of the satellite and decrease cost-per-byte by around 80%. This way satellite operator will have the twofold advantage of an extended access to data and the availability of a web based interface to the satellite, through a service that is currently unavailable in Europe. This represents a huge opportunity for Europe to move rapidly and concretely, thus providing companies a quantifiable competitive advantage in the small satellites market.
The main objective of the Phase 1 project was to pinpoint the most attractive business cases for the initial market introduction of the Leaf Line solution, prioritising those with the highest traction and lowest competitive entry barriers. To this scope, we have performed an extensive small satellite market analysis that leads to the identification of the application scenarios and use cases for various customers’ types. This analysis has allowed us to define and refine the business model and to draw up a detailed business plan. Moreover, according to the results obtained during the Phase 1 feasibility study, we have evaluated and defined the technological requirements needed for the development of the Phase 2 Project aimed at producing a ready-to-market solution. The results obtained through the technological feasibility has proven the viability for the development and installation of the first network node, thus allowing us to go forward with the validation of the GS with potential customers.
The rapidly growing number of small satellites launches (forecasted to exceed 1,000 by 2020) will produce a huge amount of data able to satisfy the market demand of the downstream applications delivered to end-users (weather forecasts, high resolution imaging for precision farming, risk management, etc.). However, getting real time access to space data is a milestone still not achieved since the main bottleneck in the space value chain is the ground station segment. The Leaf Space value proposition will unlock the possibility to exploit real time data of small satellite through the development and implementation of the Leaf Line ground station network, enabling an unprecedented all-in-one TT&C service customisable according to the client’s needs. Given the latest figures provided by NSR, by 2024 the market of micro and nanosatellites (i.e. 1-100kg) would generate cumulative revenues exceeding $4.7 billion and $1.2 billion in manufacturing and launch services respectively.
The Leaf Space’s vision is to capture the value of this blossoming market, becoming the one-stop-shop for small satellite operators, thanks to a set of services covering the whole satellite lifecycle, from launch to data collection and management, until the decommissioning of the satellites. For this reason, by taking into account the market estimation provided by Frost & Sullivan for the next five years and the market shares forecast for all the verticals, we have estimated a total addressable market (TAM) of around $400 million, even though we anticipate that this evaluation will be strongly influenced by the market response we will gain through the first implementation of the Leaf Line network.
Three top verticals are predicted to benefit more from microsatellites: Earth Observation (precision farming, ships monitoring, disaster monitoring & risk management), Technology Development and Science.
The two market verticals that we have identified as the most profitable for the market introduction of the Leaf Line system are Earth Observation and Science, that together currently represent over 50% of the TAM.
To demonstrate the performances of our network we have chosen to focus our project development activities on case studies within the EO and Science segments, by proving the increase in profitability of the business of potential Leaf Line clients that currently operate in the small satellite industry worldwide.
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