The Small Satellite Market is Booming, with Materials Technology Innovation at its Heart    

NASA's Artemis program to return to the moon, fifty years after the last humans walked there, is understandably gaining widespread media interest. 

In other news, there were six SpaceX missions in July 2022 alone, taking the number of launches in that program to over 170. 

Together, these stories reflect two key trends in the space sector right now – a continuation of traditional exploration and large satellite launches, and a rapidly expanding commercial element, dabbling in space tourism, but mainly concerned with getting as many small satellites as possible into orbit as part of wider infrastructure programs. 

This article considers the state of the space sector, focusing on the impact of the demand for small satellites on the value chain, from launch vehicles to materials technology. 

It highlights how Henkel’s position as a market leader in advanced materials technology, along with its product portfolio, positions it as a key player in the emerging small satellite market. 

The State of the Space Sector Today 

While traditional space exploration programs continue, and space tourism attracts the interest of the media, the small satellite market is growing exponentially, fueled largely by demand for more satellite communications networks. 

While Elon Musk’s SpaceX/Starlink venture launches tens of satellites every week, oneweb, Telesat and Amazon’s Project Kuiper remain very much in the picture. .

The market is increasingly about accessibility, with Low Earth Orbit (LEO) small satellite constellations delivering everyday benefits, and the downward pressure on costs that happens as any market grows. With Space X’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, the cost per kilogram to deliver a payload into LEO has dropped below $2000

Growth is Impacting the Whole Value Chain 

With a forecast 16.6% CAGR in LEO satellite market size to 2030, the shape of the space sector is changing in ways that affect the whole value chain.

Growing demand for launch vehicles is creating the potential for smaller disruptors to challenge established players with cheaper, more attritable vehicles. 

New capabilities will be needed to manage the sheer volume of satellites and deal with the growing challenge of space debris.   

The advanced materials technology required to launch and sustain satellites in orbit is likely to evolve from a niche specialism into a mainstream market capability.   

Materials Technology and the Growing Space Sector  

While materials technology innovation will continue to be needed for the big projects like moon bases and Mars missions, a major trend will be in further optimizing process and qualifying materials capable of supporting high-rate manufacturing.   

Materials technology has to meet mushrooming demand, by offering cost effective, fast to market solutions. These solutions must still meet the stringent and challenging standards – outgassing, thermal cycling – needed for an artefact that needs to be launched into orbit and stay there, and must at least not add to the issues and dangers from space debris.

The growing and changing demands of space materials technology will continue to be met through research collaboration between government agencies, academic institutes and industrial leaders in new materials and processes, to further advance the development of satellite technology and space explorations as a whole.

How Henkel’s Capability and Product Portfolio Adds Value to the Space Sector   

Henkel has a long-established and rich pedigree in materials technology for the space and aviation sectors, with over 40 years of aerospace experience and an ongoing program of innovation, working in collaboration with partners in the value chain, and with government and academic agencies. 

Here are just some of the broad variety of Henkel products and technologies already supporting the space industry - 

As a leader in electronic component assembly solutions, Henkel offers an extensive portfolio of high reliability paste and film solutions and circuit board protection materials for circuit and aerospace PCB assembly for radar, guidance systems, satellites, and aircraft. 

Henkel offers a wide range of certified adhesives for the high reliability applications needed for the rigors and challenges of space, with over 100 NASA outgassing approved products

Henkel continues to innovate and collaborate with partners throughout the value chain to meet the challenges and opportunities of the evolving space sector. 

What Next? 

To find out more about how Henkel’s expertise, experience and product portfolio is helping to shape the future of space, visit us at: 

About the Author

Ruairi O’Kane

Head Global Strategy Aviation, Space & Rail


Ruairi has been serving the chemical industry for more than 15 years. He is a technology-focused market strategist who has developed adhesives, advanced materials and polymer solutions for the aerospace, semiconductor and industrial sectors

He is currently the Global Strategy Head for the Aviation, Space & Rail group at Henkel Adhesive Technologies. He joined Henkel in 2006 after completing his degree in chemistry in Trinity College Dublin and PhD in Metal Organic Chemical Vapour Deposition at the University of Liverpool. Ruairi has also completed a BSc in Technology Management.

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