SpaceX has ambitions to launch thousands of communications satellites into low earth orbit (LOE). Other competitors, such as OneWeb and LeoSat, do as well. The lowering cost of launch technologies, combined with the shrinking size and increasing sophistication of satellites, allows for new approaches.
Launch costs are likely to continue to drop as new players enter the sector.
The recent entrant is Stratolaunch, a startup aerospace firm backed by Paul Allen, who is now testing a new launch vehicle. Stratolaunch has introduced an enormous, twin fuselage aircraft designed to carry up to three rockets that can lift satellites into LOE. It would return to its staging area, refuel, reload, and be ready for three more rockets. Stratolaunch anticipates its first rocket tests in 2019.
Also quietly testing a range of new launch technologies is Blue Origin, the Jeff Bezos-backed rocket startup. While it gets only a fraction of the press of SpaceX, the firm reportedly is making steady progress towards reusable vehicles, has plenty of funding, and planning, among other things, for sub-orbital space tourism flights beginning in 2018.