Analyzing the Trends in the Space Semiconductor Industry That Are Mobilizing Future Space Missions

24 May


Key highlights:

  • Introduction
  • Role of advanced materials in the rise of the industry
  • Miniaturization of space semiconductor devices
  • Growth of the sector in Asia-Pacific

The entry of private players like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, etc., and announcements of major upcoming space missions by several governmental agencies have brought back the focus on advancements in the space sector. Several new technologies are being designed to support these space missions and enhance the space exploration capabilities of humanity in general. Space missions like Artemis, Gaganyan, Starship, etc., have led to massive investments in the development of advanced space semiconductors for the effective functioning of critical equipment in space.

Increasing investments in advanced materials for semiconductor manufacturing

Space semiconductors, as the name suggests, are semiconductor-based electronic gadgets and integrated circuits specifically designed to withstand the harsh conditions in space. These semiconductor devices offer stability and efficiency even at extremely high and low temperatures, function efficiently even in vacuum conditions, and can tolerate the highest radiation levels and mechanical stress. To develop such integrated circuits and discrete semiconductors, companies have launched research programs for designing new materials and chemicals that can help achieve this aim.

Many such space research initiatives and studies on advanced materials have proposed two materials that can help consumer electronics businesses design advanced space semiconductors viz., graphene and gallium nitride (GaN). In January 2024, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology created the world’s first functional graphene semiconductor. The lead researcher in this project claimed that this semiconductor had 10 times the mobility of silicon semiconductors and hence could handle large currents without breaking down. Space experts across the globe have consequently remarked that the designing of graphene semiconductors is a ground-breaking development and will open a host of new possibilities in the space semiconductor industry.

Similarly, a study done by the European Space Agency has found that gallium nitride (GaN) could be a perfect replacement for silicon for manufacturing space-compatible integrated circuits. The study shows that gallium nitride is inherently radiation-resistant and can function smoothly even at high voltage levels. Scientists have hence proposed that this advanced material could be perfect for manufacturing solar cells, advanced sensors, and power converters for space applications. To capitalize on the opportunities offered by such advanced materials, ESA launched the GaN Reliability Enhancement and Technology Transfer Initiative (GREAT2), wherein all the leading research institutes in Europe will come together to manufacture state-of-the-art GaN devices for space applications.

The trend toward miniaturization and integration to transform the space semiconductor industry

 An important consideration in designing space shuttles or satellite equipment is their weight. Naturally, spacecraft manufacturers try to reduce the weight of the space vehicles and their components so that lift-off becomes easy, less fuel is required, and the journey and exploration time can be extended. Hence, many research activities and semiconductor studies that are currently underway are focusing on the miniaturization of discrete semiconductors and integrated circuits to make them compact, lightweight, and energy-efficient. Innovations like micro-electromechanical systems, wherein microscopic devices ranging from 1-100 micrometers in size are manufactured, have enabled space researchers to develop smaller satellites and instruments that are better suited for space applications.

Asia-Pacific region to contribute to the growth of the industry

The space semiconductor industry is expected to witness the highest growth in the Asia-Pacific region and rise at a CAGR of 12% in the 2023-2032 period. The increasing deployment of satellites by various countries in this province is expected to help the industry flourish in the years to come. Moreover, the growing expanse of the consumer electronics manufacturing sector in countries like China and India is projected to augment the landscape’s growth rate in the near future.

Furthermore, the increased investments from governments and private companies in advancements related to space technology are expected to offer numerous growth opportunities to the industry in this province. In the past few years, Asia-Pacific has emerged as a prominent region for the development of small satellites due to technological innovations in power control, data processing, communication and navigation systems, etc., which is expected to positively impact the industry.

To summarize, the space semiconductor industry has witnessed exceptional growth in the past few years due to the development of advanced materials like graphene and gallium nitride (GaN). Additionally, the gradual shift toward miniaturization of semiconductor devices and manufacturing of small satellites is estimated to improve the revenue share of the sector in the next few years.

For a comprehensive study on the different growth drivers and investment opportunities in the landscape, feel free to contact us.

Akhilesh Prabhugaonkar

Akhilesh Prabhugaonkar

Author's Bio- Akhilesh Prabhugaonkar holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering from the reputed Vishwakarma Institute of Technology. He has a special interest in the fields of forensics, world history, international relations and foreign policy, sports, agriculture, astronomy, security, and oceanography. An ardent bibliophile and melophile, Akhilesh loves to write on topics of his interest and various other societal issues. This love for writing made him enter the professional world of content writing and pursue his career in this direction.


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