Russia’s Limited Capacity in Satellite Development

Thomas Leyk
2 Min Read

According to preliminary data, approximately 2,400 spacecraft have been launched into orbit this year. The majority of these, around 75 percent, were Starlink satellites created and launched by SpaceX. However, other countries including China have also contributed to the significant increase in satellite production and launch.

There are a few key reasons behind this surge in satellite activity. Firstly, commercialization has played a significant role in making satellite production more accessible. Earth observation and communication satellites are becoming smaller and more affordable, and rideshare options have reduced the cost of launching them.

Another crucial factor is the rise of megaconstellations, especially those offering low-latency broadband Internet services. SpaceX’s Starlink constellation is the most notable example, but OneWeb’s operational spacecraft and upcoming projects like Amazon’s Project Kuiper also contribute. Furthermore, China and the European Union have announced plans to develop megaconstellations.

However, Russia’s efforts in satellite development and deployment are relatively limited. The country plans to establish the “Sphere” constellation consisting of 264 satellites to provide Internet and Earth observation capabilities within Russia. Nonetheless, this is a relatively small-scale project compared to the ambitions of other companies and countries.

In an interview, Yuri Borisov, the chief of Russian space operations, revealed that Russia can only produce a few dozen satellites annually. This is a fraction of what privately owned companies like SpaceX can achieve. Borisov explained that it takes around 18 months to build a single satellite in Russia, hindering the development of a megaconstellation.

In contrast, the combined efforts of the US industry and government can produce around 3,000 satellites in a year, and China has the capacity to manufacture 1,200 to 1,500 satellites annually. Roscosmos, the Russian space corporation, is unable to match these numbers due to its limited capacity.

Borisov admitted that Russia was unprepared for the current surge in satellite production and launch.

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