U.S. space companies to benefit from Russia pullback: Quilty Analytics
On February 3, 2022, a Falcon 9 rocket will carry 49 Starlink satellites into orbit.
According to an analysis report released Friday, Russia has been reducing its access to much of the world’s space industry as a result of Western sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. U.S. companies could benefit from this.
Both Russia and Ukraine have contributed significantly to the international space industry for many decades. Both nations are
Quilty Analytics, an investment and research firm that is focused on the space industry, described Quilty Analytics as “powerhouses of rocket- and propulsion expert, supplying launch service to customers around the world,” in a briefing.
The Russian state-run Roscosmos space agency, with its Soyuz rockets, has long been one of the leading launch providers in the industry – delivering satellites, cargo and crew into orbit.
Quilty believes that the U.S. is a net beneficiary of Russia’s withdrawal of its launch services for American or European companies. There are a lot more satellites looking to ride into orbit now, and it will retaliate. Elon Musk’sChris Quilty (the founder of SpaceX) stated to CNBC that SpaceX is the “clear winner” in launch market.
OneWeb, SpaceX’s Starlink competitor announced that Monday, it will transfer launches of its internet satellites from Musk’s company after having terminated its agreement with Roscosmos. OneWeb claims that SpaceX launches will begin later in the year.
Russian launch activity has been pulled from the market just as launch rates hit new historic records. Quilty explained that Europe needs someone to take on this demand. But Europe has a top-down market approach and isn’t well placed to handle it.
Beyond SpaceX, other companies providing space station services and developing new orbiting habitats – such as Boeing, Axiom, Sierra Space, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Voyager – are poised to benefit. Also, Quilty sees Iridium CommunicationsMost likely, satellite communication to NATO forces and Ukraine will be of benefit.
The 36 OneWeb satellites are launched from Vostochny Cosmodrome by the Soyuz 2 rocket on March 25, 2020.
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, it began retaliating to sanctions through Roscosmos – with the suspension of OneWeb internet satellite launches earlier this monthOne of the first acts in the nation’s history.
Quilty identified four areas of Russia’s space retaliation:
- Soyuz rockets were withdrawn form the European launch market
- Termination of rocket engine salesTo the U.S.
- Possible dissolution the International Space Station partnership
- Unable to access the internet due to cyberattack Viasat broadband service in Ukraine and other parts of Europe
Russian-based EDB Fakel manufactures spacecraft and satellite propulsion units. OneWeb also receives electric thrusters from them. Quilty pointed out that EDB Fakel has “several” makers of large geosynchronous orbit satellites.
Quilty stated that EDB Fakel estimated it holds roughly 10% of global spacecraft markets, which they will likely lose due to Russia’s actions.
There are serious implications for the Soyuz launch vehicles’ withdrawal from a large part of the international market. Soyuz was a long-serving role at the center of the global launch market and has always been an essential component for Roscosmos as well as the Russian space program.
Quilty noted that Soyuz’s success has been largely due to the demand from Western countries for launches. International civil customers account for 51%, Quilty explained. According to the firm, 25% of worldwide launch activity has been attributed to Russia’s infrastructure for launch, which includes three spaceports.
Quilty stated that “the loss of west customers and demand sources, like the ISS), will economic hurt.”
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket launches from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia (August 10, 2021) carrying Cygnus cargo and a Northrop Grumman spacecraft.
Terry Zaperach / NASA Wallops
The firm stated that Russia will need to find other suppliers or a space station if it withdraws from the ISS Partnership early, or doesn’t continue its role beyond 2024.
U.S. companies in space would benefit. Quilty found multiple companies as likely filling that gap in services – with SpaceX and Sierra Space for cargo delivery, Boeing and SpaceX for crew delivery, and the four private space stations in developmentAxiom’s and Northrop’s Starlab, Orbital Reef, and Starlab.
Quilty said that although a handful of companies had been leading the provision of optical, hyperspectral and SAR imagery in the Russian-Ukraine conflict period, most (if not all?) EO players will be able to benefit from the unprecedented exposure.
Quilty thinks that satellite communications may be a growing market for Iridium’s Certus broadband, push to speak devices, and other services.
Quilty explained that Iridium often experiences spikes in demand for its narrowband data/voice services during global crises like earthquakes or weather related events and conflicts.
Quilty warned that Iridium might face some backlash in Russia, where it provides services for “thousands” of customers, particularly in the energy sector.
United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between Lockheed and Boeing that builds rockets. It uses Russian-built RD-180 engines for its Atlas V rockets. Quilty said the loss of engines “isn’t a big loss for ULA”, as ULA has its replacement Vulcan rocket series yet to launch and all remaining Atlas V rockets have been booked.
Northrop Grumman continues to buy Russian-built RD-181 engines that power its Antares missiles. The main structure of the Antares rockets is made by the Ukrainian Yuzhmash State Enterprise. This makes it “heavily dependent” on Russia and perhaps the most compromised U.S. rocket series due to Russia’s war. The rocket’s future, however, is uncertain, even though Northrop Grumman stated it had the capability to carry out two additional Antares launch missions, covering mission orders through early 2023.
Without a solution to the conflict, it’s unclear how Antares would continue without undergoing a major redesign. Quilty stated that NASA is Northrop Grumman’s only customer for the rocket.