Space: Satellite Dispensers


October 13, 2021: Since satellites were first put into orbit in 1958, nearly 12,000 have been sent up and that number is set to expand enormously as SLVs (satellite launch vehicles) increasing carry multiple smaller satellites. In 2020 about 1,200 satellites were put into orbit, most of them micro-satellites (under 100 kg/220 pounds) to or even smaller cubesats (1.33 to 31 kg, or three to 68 pounds). The number of satellites launched each year will soon reach 5,000 or more. This has made satellite dispensers for these smaller satellites a vital component in SLV. One of the more successful satellite dispensers is built by the space division of Swiss firm RUAG (Rüstungs Unternehmen Aktiengesellschaft, or Armaments Corporation). So far RUAG dispensers have put over a thousand small satellites into orbit, with a success rate of 100 percent of SLVs that successfully deliver the final stage of the rocket, containing the dispenser, into orbit. RUAG has long provided satellite dispensers for multiple satellite launches to European countries. RUAG began providing satellite dispensers for single satellite launches in 1979 and was one of the first to develop dispensers that could handle multiple smaller satellites carried by an SLV. Single satellite SLV missions are still carried out for payloads weighing ten tons or more. The new market is for dispensers that can launch dozens of micro or cubesats on one SLV. So far, the largest number of satellites dispensed by a single RUAG dispenser is 31 and that number is set to increase as satellite networks increasingly depend on thousands of smaller satellites to provide reliable communications, including high-speed Internet service worldwide.


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