As we move into 2024, the satellite industry is poised for significant technological advancements. Several trends are expected to shape the industry in the coming year, including artificial intelligence, launch capacity, lower size, weight, and power (SWaP) initiatives, climate change as a catalyst for Earth Observation (EO) technologies, satellite-to-cell technology, the role of 3GPP, multi-orbit constellations enabled by onboard data processing, and the proliferation of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations.
Climate change concerns are driving the development of EO satellite technologies. New products are being introduced that target key climate change initiatives, such as hyperspectral, infrared, microwave, and greenhouse gas monitoring. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are also leveraging satellite remote sensing data for biodiversity and deforestation tracking efforts.
Satellite-to-cell technology is another area of focus. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Huawei are incorporating emergency messaging services supported by satellite partners. Starlink plans to offer texting services via its Direct to Cell initiative in 2024. The US Space Force is also seeking proposals for direct-to-cell communications services for military users.
The mobile standardization body 3GPP is playing a crucial role in establishing satellite standards for direct-to-cell technologies. Its Release-17 included non-terrestrial networks (NTN) in its mobile standards, enabling the development of integrated, direct-to-device 5G over satellite and Internet of Things services.
Onboard data processing advancements are enabling the development of multi-orbit constellations. These constellations combine different orbits for increased connectivity and remote sensing coverage. They offer improved situational awareness and resilience, particularly in a congested and contested space environment.
The proliferation of LEO constellations is also gaining momentum. Major planned constellations are introducing services and driving adoption. The Space Development Agency (SDA) has shifted its focus to a proliferated-LEO concept, supported by significant funding for research, prototyping, and system launches. Secure networking technologies will be crucial for the success of the SDA’s architecture.
Overall, these technology trends will shape the satellite industry in 2024, paving the way for advancements in Earth Observation, satellite-to-cell communications, multi-orbit constellations, and LEO constellations.