Earth observation satellite launch schedule for 2021 & estimate for 2022

14th Dec 2021
Earth observation satellite launch schedule for 2021 & estimate for 2022

The number of new satellites in orbit is steadily growing, and, according to expert forecasts, this trend will continue in the future — especially given that today’s Earth observation satellite launch schedule is rather tight. A significant increase is also observed in the segment of communication satellites, mainly due to the development of the global satellite Internet programs Starlink and OneWeb, within which 1,100 devices have already been launched this year.

The second place is confidently, albeit with a noticeable gap, taken by Earth Observation Satellites. More and more government institutions, scientific organisations, and businesses need Earth data to improve their activities; therefore, according to the same expert forecasts, the EOS market will be one of the most promising niches in the next 3-5 years.

Today, out of almost 3 thousand satellites operating in orbit, more than 900 are Earth Observation Satellites. Who are today’s leaders in the EOS launch market, and how will the situation develop further? To answer this question, we reviewed all completed and planned EOS launches in 2021.

Earth Observation Satellite launch missions in 2021

Earth Observation Satellite launch missions in 2021

Since the beginning of the year and by mid-September, 128 Earth Observation satellites have been launched into orbit, and another 97 are planned by the end of December. The detailed stats are listed in the table below. 

Flock v43U CubeSatPlanet Labs4844Space X Falcon 9
Gaofen and othersVariableChina2311Long March (ChángZhēng)
Lemur 23U CubeSatSpire Global162Space X Falcon 9, Arianespace Vega
Astrocast3U CubeSatAstrocast10Space X Falcon 9
ICEYEX-band SARICEYE61Space X Falcon 9
EOS(Risat)RadarSatISRO2 (loss)15PSLV, GSLV
Black SkyOptical microSatBlack Sky3 (2 loss)6Rocket Lab Electron
NuSatOptical SmallsatSpacelogic4?Space X Falcon 9
Earth Observation satellites launched into orbit

The list would be much longer, but we decided not to include single satellite launches from Sat Revolution, Airbus, Capella Space, as well as some other companies and government organizations from different countries. As for the launches planned for Q4 2021, it is worth noting the missions of the British company Alba Orbital pocketCube Unicorn for GB and Germany. It is assumed that SpaceX Falcon 9 will deliver four satellites for Germany, and Rocket Lab Electron will deliver two more for Great Britain.  Roscosmos is also very active. Their Soyuz rockets have already launched eighth EOS from different countries, including their own, and another launch of the Japanese satellite Strix is planned for Q4.

Satellite launch forecast for 2022

This is the current situation for EOS launches in 2021. In 2022, the activity is expected to increase by 7-8%. This increase is largely explained by the emergence of new providers in the launch market. American company, Firefly Aerospace, as well as Scottish Orbex Space and Skyrora Ltd, could become one of these providers.  Firefly has already conducted the first demonstration launch of its Alpha rocket on 3rd September and although the carrier crashed 2.5 minutes after the launch, it is worth noting that even Space X Falcon, which now has more than 120 launches in its track record, successfully completed its mission on the fourth attempt. Orbex Prime and Skyrora XL micro launchers are scheduled to launch in the second half of 2022. Possibly, their first payloads will add to the Earth observation satellite launch list. 

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