Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

If RLVs show such promise, why aren’t investors more interested? A major concern is the uncertain size of the market. Most proposed RLVs are best suited for launching small satellites into low orbits (typically less than 1,500 kilometers). Hundreds of these satellites will form the infrastructure of the global telecom systems for companies like Iridium, Globalstar and Teledesic. But with Iridium facing financial problems and with Teledesic’s design in flux, demand for RLVs is uncertain. The proposed RLVs are not powerful enough to lift heavy communications satellites 36,000 kilometers up into geosynchronous orbit for broadcasting television and other signals-the faster-growing segment of the business.

Still, developers of RLVs are not daunted. Gary Hudson, CEO of Rotary, notes that RLVs like Roton would be capable of servicing satellites already in orbit and delivering crews to the International Space Station, not just launching satellites.

If RLVs can deliver on their promise of low-cost space access, they may open up markets such as rapid cargo delivery or space tourism. Attempting to predict such a future, says RLV advocate Max Hunter, would be like “explaining Hollywood to Queen Isabella.”

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me