Cost breakdown of a launch
Over the past four decades, the satellite launch industry has evolved hardware and processes with complex levels of
integration, aligning its development with multi-ton spacecraft and the requirements of high-cost, risk-intolerant missions. Yet
in the small satellite market, this philosophy is inadequate to keep up with the boom in spacecraft technology that is pushing
space utilization into the growing market. The prohibitive costs of launch are progressively out of sync with the multitude of
commercial developments that has enabled the adoption of small satellite (e.g. cubesat) technology on a widespread scale. In
order for economical access to space to expand, it has to evolve from a focus on capital-intensive multinational and corporate
efforts to small business and public involvement to fully realize its potential in the broader economy.
Large amounts of investment have been directed towards building ever larger launchers, bringing down the cost per kilogram
into orbit and laying the foundations for the space tourism industry. The strategy of building large does expand access through
gradually lowering costs. However, this abstracts potential customers from launch vehicle technology itself and reduces access
points into space. It isn’t the ideal path for areas of commercialization and resource utilization where missions need to be
optimized for delivering thousands of smaller spacecraft into different orbits. The creation of large, expensive, multi-use
vehicles prohibits the expansion of such doorways and increases the threshold to launch technology. If we are to set our eyes
on creating much larger markets capable of making profound impacts on our ways of life, scaling up is not enough.
The responsive launch movement is gaining momentum, evident in the boom of private launch companies in recent years.
These smallsat launch vehicles have been conceived in the same tradition of conservative design under the backdrop of an
industry used to high launch prices, and provide a low entry point for these enterprises which are trying to squeeze themselves into an increasingly crowded field. Fundamentally very little has changed in these vehicles besides their privatization and modernization.
The only path to materializing the vision of accessible space is to allow the proliferation of launchers at such a scale where a
ride to space is only a ticket away. This means building more bridges across the gap that lies between us and the universe. This
means making the technology accessible, low-cost, and plentiful. We cannot merely build the same launchers, and just build
them smaller. The approach, the design choices, the business models have to undergo a fundemental change.
Since our first ventures into space, our economy has seen revolutions in automation and mass manufacturing the drastically
brought down the cost of sophisticated products and large mechanical systems. The rest of the transport industry has
established efficient supply chains which enabled them to deliver products at extremely low costs. Aerospace components have the potential to reach the same level of maturity, yet we are missing a developed industry and the volume needed for such
vertical integration. However the world today has changed. Even without this premise, modernized production techniques and
additive manufacturing are able to effectively bridge this volume gap by enabling individual companies to produce parts at
incredible tolerances with low costs. Launch vehicles are machines no more complex than a small car or truck, yet their small
volumes, high engineering and verification costs, and complex manufacturing has kept the bar of entry high. We have set out to
change this. We want to see them one day dominate the skies like any other mode of transportation.
The development of Feynman coincides with the rise of the fastest growing segment in the space sector. With a huge number of nanosatellites requiring a launch in the foreseeable future and the rideshare launch market being completely saturated, a large growing market for customers that require dedicated launch opportunities, nanosatellite constellations, and mission flexibility is left wide open. Our launch technology enables us to expand the mission capabilities of small spacecraft based on the premises of modern advancements in scaling and the cost effective nature of mass produced, small sized vehicles. In a way, the nanolauncher aims to be comparable first personal computer ever produced: it is to bring space to the hands of individuals.