In satellite technology, the top satellite manufacturer is often the one that is most difficult to choose. There are dozens of different companies manufacturing satellite payloads, and they all have their own strengths, weaknesses, and place in the satellite constellation. Locklear Systems Inc., based in San Diego, is one of the largest satellite payload manufacturers and has a history of excellent customer service. It is also an innovative company, using state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and computer numerical control (CNC) technologies to make each satellite individual and customized for optimal performance.
Locklear Systems Inc. subcontracted its satellite manufacturing and satellite servicing to Pleiades Communications Corporation in the early 1990s. Pleiades was a pioneer in the satellite manufacturing industry and was well-known for its quality work and competitive prices. However, Pleiades was unable to keep up with the rapidly growing satellite manufacturing industry, and in 1996 it merged with Northrop Grumman to form Northrop-Grumman. Northrop-Grumman then became LGC, or Latin G. The name was changed to LGC after the merger, to reflect the fact that it did not produce satellite units for commercial applications. Today LGC manufactures both the LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and higher-end MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) satellites.
LGC offers two product lines – small satellite payloads and larger satellite systems. Small satellite payloads are meant to be launched into low-earth orbit (LEO), and are used to track objects on the ground or in space. They use tracking systems to locate their final position. Larger satellites, which are used for surveillance mapping, need a higher-than-LEO orbit. MEO satellites, meanwhile, are larger and require a higher-than-LEO orbit so that they can relay communications between the U.S. and foreign satellites.
There are two different types of LGC launch windows. The first is the full-orbit launch window, which opens up prior to liftoff and remains open until the satellite is in line with the injection window. The second is an intermediate-orbit launch window, which may open during the first minute of flight, remain open during the second, and then close during the last minute of flight. In addition, LGCs can have a hybrid open or closed launch window, which can open and close based upon the position of the target satellite during the time of the flight. These are the only differences between LEO and MEO launch windows.
With all of these characteristics, it is no surprise that the LGC satellite payloads market is expected to continue growing over the next few years. This growth will impact all facets of the satellite operations, as the availability of small satellites is likely to increase while the demand for larger LEO satellites decreases. Even though the forecast period for the next five years looks particularly bright, it also has a lot of uncertainty. Both industry analysts and space experts believe that the growth in the small satellite market will be more than double that of the past five years, but this is an assumption, and actual numbers may vary slightly from year to year.
As mentioned above, both the MEO and LEO launch window will expand as the demand for both satellite technology and LEO applications increases. For example, LEO technology is often used for high-resolution imaging and for mapping. If you want to use LEO technology for these purposes, you need a LEO satellite. On the other hand, if you want to place very small satellites in low Earth orbit, you probably won’t need a LEO. The forecast period for both markets will continue to change with time and the market will become more fluid as technology progresses. However, one thing remains certain.