Research

Payload Research: Q1 Space Industry via Charts

Ed. note: This is Payload Research analysis. You can sign up for our Research newsletter here.

The first three months of 2024 was another busy quarter for the space industry, underscored by continued growth in SpaceX’s launch cadence and a solid VC funding environment. Below are the four charts defining the quarter.

The total number of global orbital launch attempts in Q1 increased by 10 missions in 2024, a 19% year-over-year increase. The growth can be attributed to SpaceX, which saw an increase of 11 launches in Q1 2024 vs. Q1 2023.

More capacity is on the horizon with Vulcan, Starship, New Glenn, and a host of Chinese launch startups set to increase launch cadence over the next year. 

Key takeaways:

  • With a gap between Ariane 5’s retirement and Ariane 6’s debut, Europe registered zero launches last quarter. 
  • Iran launched two rockets in Q1 compared to one in 2022 and two in 2023. 
  • Rocket Lab launched four times in Q1 as it looks to build off the nine missions in FY23.
  • SpaceX’s launch count includes 31 Falcon 9 launches and one Starship launch in 2024. 

SpaceX launched 31 Falcon 9 missions in Q1, matching the total number of launches the company recorded in 2021. 

The pace of launch is increasing month over month, with SpaceX hitting 12 Falcon launches in March. 

Falcon launches by month:

  • January: 10 
  • February: 9
  • March: 12 

Still, based on its Q1 pace, the launch giant is ~15% behind its goal of 148 Falcon launches. To hit that target, SpaceX will need to average 13 Falcon launches per month for the rest of the year.

The Q1 payload breakdown:

  • 1 DoD: SpaceX launched USSF-124, which included four SDA Tranche 0 tracking layer birds and 2 HBTSS. Falcon 9 also delivered two Starshield satellites as a secondary payload on a Starlink flight. 
  • 1 Transporter mission: Falcon 9 hosted 53 customer payloads on Transporter-10.
  • 2 science: SpaceX’s Q1 science missions include NASA’s PACE ocean monitoring bird and Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 lunar landing mission. 
  • 3 customer satcom: SpaceX launched Telkomsat’s Merah Putih 2 satellite, Eutelsat 36D, and Ovzon-3. 
  • 4 ISS missions: SpaceX launched four missions to the ISS last quarter. Crew-8, Ax-3 private crewed mission, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo resupply mission, and a Dragon resupply mission. 
  • 20 Starlink missions: Starlink continues to dominate Falcon launches as SpaceX looks to rapidly deploy its constellation and boost capacity. This year’s Starlink-dedicated launch cadence is similar to the trend we saw last year. 

Key takeaways:

  • Half the deals listed are international fundraises, including the four largest.
  • Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology’s $943M monster raise will support its planned ~12,000 LEO G60 constellation, which is China’s response to SpaceX’s Starlink network. The group plans to launch its first 108 satellites this year. 
  • The list features two data analysis startups and two SSA businesses, underscoring VC interest in the data and services sectors. 
  • US launch and spaceflight had a quiet quarter compared to the substantial attention it has received in past years.
Related Stories
Research

Charts Defining the Space Industry in Q2: Payload Research

There were 63 total global launches in Q2 2024, a 40% YoY increase. The usual suspects, SpaceX and China, are once again leading the charge.

Research

Starlink Mini Impact and Rapid Terminal Iteration: Payload Research

Last week, SpaceX unveiled the Starlink Mini terminal, a laptop-sized device capable of delivering high speed internet nearly anywhere in the world. 

Research

LEO and GEO Satellite Operators Battle it out on EPFD Rules: Payload Research

Late last year, the World Radio communication Conference (WRC-23) approved a proposal to review EPFD (Equivalent Power Flux Density) limits, a critical juncture in rights negotiations between GEO and LEO operators that sets the stage for regulatory action by 2027 or 2031.

Research

A Look Into China’s Defense Payloads: Payload Research

Over the last decade, China has grown its military presence in space to include sophisticated space planes, recon birds, secure comms, SSA, and ASAT capabilities.