Published Date: Jan 2024


The space industry has come a long way from government-owned and operated satellites providing services. With advancements in private space companies and decreasing satellite costs, a new concept known as 'Satellite as a Service' (SaaS) has emerged which is revolutionizing how organizations access space capabilities.

What is Satellite as a Service (SaaS)?

Satellite as a Service refers to leasing satellite communication services rather than owning satellites outright. Under this model, companies provide on-demand access to satellite capabilities such as imagery, communication and Internet access on a flexible, pay-as-you-go subscription basis.

Some key characteristics of SaaS include:

- Flexible, scalable access: Customers can scale bandwidth, imagery or other services up or down depending on changing needs without long term commitments.

- Low upfront costs: No massive capital outlays required to build or launch your own satellite. Customers pay only for what they use through an operational expense model.

- Rapid deployment: Services can be provisioned within months compared to years needed for traditional satellites. This allows for quick response to emerging needs.

- Reliability: Multiple satellites are used to ensure reliability through redundancy and global coverage. Outages experienced by any single satellite will not affect the whole system.

- Technology upgrades: Satellite operators are responsible for maintaining the most advanced technologies through periodic satellite refreshes ensuring customers always have access to the latest satellite capabilities.

- Demand matching: Satellite operators are able to adjust satellite configurations and payloads based on analyzing aggregated demand patterns from multiple customers to most efficiently meet overall demand in specific regions.

The Growth of the SaaS Model

Major satellite operators worldwide have been transitioning their business models towards SaaS to tap growing demands and stay competitive. For example, SES offers flexible, scalable satellite communication and data services to media, enterprise, and government customers through its SES Network platform.

New dedicated SaaS constellations are also being launched. OneWeb launched its first satellites in 2019 with a planned fleet of 648 low earth orbit satellites to deliver high-speed, low-latency global satellite internet access. Amazon too aims to deploy a constellation of over 3,000 satellites through its Kuiper project for broadband connectivity services.

Key Advantages of SaaS Driving Adoption

Flexibility and Cost Savings: The on-demand, pay-per-use model allows organizations across industries to access critical space capabilities without large upfront capital requirements. Users only pay for what they need through predictable operational costs. This provides flexibility to scale services up or down depending on short term needs.

SaaS especially benefits industries with fluctuating or seasonal demands like oil & gas exploration, maritime, transportation etc. that may require additional bandwidth or imagery for projects but not always. Being able to access such capabilities on-tap on an as-needed basis through SaaS increases ROI from satellite services.

Technological Advances: Rapid advances in smallsat technologies have lowered the barriers to access space. New SaaS platforms leverage cutting-edge technologies like low-earth orbit constellations, software-defined payload configurations and mesh networks to provide high-throughput, low-latency global connectivity and data services.

This recent surge of new capabilities even enables industries like aviation, autonomous vehicles to leverage space. Modern pilot/driver-assist features, telematics solutions and IoT/M2M applications now rely on reliable, real-time communication and data access provided scalably through SaaS platforms.

Reliability and Resilience: By aggregating demand across a large user base and leveraging fleet-level redundancy inherent to satellite constellations, SaaS providers can ensure higher service reliability compared to single satellites. Outages in a particular region due to orbit/weather factors will have minimal impact as other satellites seamlessly take over.

For mission-critical users, SaaS offers built-in reliability through multiple satellite redundancy as well as terrestrial back-ups to guarantee continuous service. This resilience opens up satellite applications for more safety/business-critical domains like maritime distress communications, aircraft tracking, pipeline/utility monitoring etc.

Emerging Application Areas for SaaS

High-Speed Global Internet Connectivity: New LEO broadband constellations promise to deliver affordable broadband internet globally, including in remote/rural areas currently unserved by terrestrial networks through fiber or mobile. Projects like OneWeb, Starlink and Kuiper will revolutionize internet access leveraging the on-demand scalability of the SaaS model.

This could enable telemedicine, distance learning and digital inclusion globally in the years to come. It will also unlock new possibilities for digital transformation of industries relying on mobility and operating across geographies like energy, mining, construction etc.

Maritime Communications: Maritime is another major industry with increasing uptake of SaaS for applications like vessel tracking, distress signaling, crew welfare connectivity at sea. SAA offerings from Inmarsat, Iridium provide continuous broadband and voice communication anywhere through small terminal equipment.

This enhances safety, operations as well as improves quality of life for seafarers through affordable internet access. Many shipping firms now choose SaaS over traditional VSAT systems for their flexible pay-as-you-sail pricing suited to intermittent vessel movements and needs.

Agriculture and Environmental Monitoring: Use of earth observation satellites is vital for tasks like yield prediction, irrigation management, detecting disasters and tracking environmental changes. However high costs of imagery and data restricted their widespread adoption especially for small/medium farmers globally.

New SaaS platforms from companies like Planet, Satellogic make high-resolution satellite imagery and insights affordable on tap. This is transforming precision agriculture and sustainability practices empowering communities and industries with low-cost space-based monitoring tools.


Satellite as a Service is undeniably the future of space industry with its inherent advantages of flexibility, reliability and democratizing access for users of all sizes across industries. As capabilities continue improving through advancing technologies while costs decline, SaaS will usher in a new era of ‘New Space Economy’ where space truly becomes integral to our daily lives and operations on Earth.