Russia doesn't want to fight for commercial launch market

Dmitry Rogozin considers the segment too small to ''elbow Musk and China aside''

Historically, Russia used to be one the leaders of the world's space industry and to dominate the global space launch market. Nonetheless, now it seems that the world's most celebrated launch provider can cede the commercial launch market to others.

Russia appears to have surrendered to SpaceX in the global launch market, states Ars Technica citing Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin, who is currently in charge of the country's defence and space industry. ''The share of launch vehicles is as small as 4% of the overall market of space services,'' the official said in an interview last Tuesday. ''The 4% stake isn't worth the effort to try to elbow Musk and China aside. Payloads manufacturing is where good money can be made.''

Over the last few years, Russia has ceded a significant share of the global commercial launch market to other competitors. In 2013, Russia controlled about half of the world's commercial launch industry, but later, it's position in the market substantially weakened due to technical problems with Proton boosters and intense competition with SpaceX and other players. As a result, Russia is expected to account for no more than 10% of the commercial satellite launch market this year, while SpaceX is expected to grab as much as 50%. Given that an independent analysis estimates the global launch market at $5,5 billion annually, Russia has probably forfeited about $2 billion when losing its share. This is a significant fraction of the country's non-military aerospace budget, the article's author Eric Berger remarks.

SpaceX-2 mission launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, USA. Photo: NASA

Satellite manufacturing and services industry mentioned by Rogozin is, in point of fact, a considerably larger industry estimated at about $14 billion a year. But it is also a competitive industry where Russia has not had a dominant position as it has historically had in the launch sector, so it will be hard enough to conquer this market. By the way, Rogozin estimated the real market of space services at approximately $350 billion and emphasized that it was the creation of payloads, and not their launch, that accounted for the bulk of the sum.

Earlier, Russian space officials were rather tough speaking about competing with Elon Musk's SpaceX in providing launch service to low-Earth and geostationary orbit. Last century, it was the Soviet Union that first send a satellite and then a human into space, while Musk's company didn't even exist until 2002 and launched its first orbital rocket less than a decade ago. To challenge SpaceX, Russian Rocket and Space Corporation Energia is currently building Soyuz-5, a new medium-class launch vehicle that is planned to be launched in the unmanned option in 2022.

By Anna Litvina