Choosing the Right Sub-Orbital Testing Services Platform for Your Business

25 Oct 2023

Sub-orbital testing services refer to private and government platforms that provide opportunities to perform experiments and gather data in a sub-orbital environment outside the Earth's atmosphere.  

The data and information gathered through these sub-orbital testing services platforms can be used for various applications such as scientific research, technology development, commercial product testing, and educational purposes. 

For the above purposes, it is essential to choose the right sub-orbital services platform that aligns with your specific testing requirements, seamlessly integrates with existing tools, and can significantly impact your business's success by saving time and effort.  

According to BIS Research, the global sub-orbital testing services market is estimated to reach $0.178 billion in 2032 from $0.122 billion in 2022, at a CAGR of 3.82% during the forecast period 2022-2032. 

This blog will outline some critical sub-orbital testing platforms to consider when selecting a sub-orbital testing services platform that is right for your business.  

Sub-Orbital Reusable Launch Vehicle (SRLV) 

A sub-orbital reusable launch vehicle (SRLV) is a rocket designed for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). SRLVs are usually used for scientific research, technology demonstrations, and suborbital space tourism. They typically have a short flight duration of limited time and are designed to launch multiple missions. 

SRLVs are effective sub-orbital service platforms as they have a vehicle capacity of 1,000 kg and can carry a maximum of six people at a time. They can soar nearly 100 kilometers into space and then return to Earth, allowing the passengers to experience one to five minutes of microgravity at the peak of their flight.  

Some notable examples of SRLVs include the SpaceShipOne and the Blue Origin's New Shepard. 

Sounding Rockets 

A sounding rocket is a suborbital launch vehicle designed to carry scientific payloads into the upper atmosphere and near-space environments. It is smaller and less complex than orbital rockets and is launched for around 10-30 minutes to gather data at altitudes ranging from 100-300 km.  

Sounding rockets provide a cost-effective platform using surplus military motors for conducting scientific experiments, such as atmospheric sampling and remote sensing, which can help improve the understanding of the Earth's environment and develop new technologies and instruments for space exploration. 

Sounding rockets gather information by following a parabolic flight path that takes them beyond the Karman line, a boundary between Earth and outer space, to provide a high-quality microgravity environment. The payload returns to the ground via a parachute. 

For instance, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has dedicated the NASA Sounding Rocket Program (NSRP) to provide universities and colleges access to study the upper atmosphere.  

Furthermore, private companies are also collaborating with government space agencies to offer sub-orbital testing services. 

For example, in May 2021, UP Aerospace, a private launch provider, collaborated with NASA on its Flight Opportunities Program to provide sub-orbital testing services. Students could send their payloads to sub-orbital space on UP Aerospace's Spaceloft rocket through this collaboration. 

This collaboration between a private company and a government space agency highlights the increasing trend of personal sector involvement in sub-orbital missions and space-related research and development. 

Fixed-Winged Platform (Parabolic Flights) 

Fixed-winged platforms refer to aircraft that follow a parabolic trajectory to simulate zero gravity and conduct microgravity experiments.  

These aircraft follow a specific pattern of ascent and descent, diving at a steep angle to create a short period of microgravity and then leveling out to prepare for the next parabolic maneuver.  

Emerging fixed-winged platforms are being considered as a secure option for sub-orbital testing services because: 

  • They have a more extended range and can cover more area than other platforms, making them well-suited for testing over large geographical regions.  
  • They are more stable in flight and can maintain their altitude and speed more consistently, which is essential for conducting precise tests.  
  • They can carry a larger payload than other platforms, allowing more complex testing instruments to be carried onboard.  

These fixed-winged platforms possess flight characteristics similar to that of commercial aircraft. They can fly payloads to altitudes exceeding 80 km, initiate take-off from conventional airfields, and return after brief intervals of contacting microgravity.  

For instance, Virgin Galactic employs fixed-winged platforms for sub-orbital tourism and conducts human-tended sub-orbital missions.  

High-Altitude Balloons 

The high-altitude balloons are also considered a feasible sub-orbital services platform, as they can reach an altitude of more than 30 km being launched in the stratosphere.  

High-altitude balloons are used in multiple applications, such as scientific experiments, surveillance, communication, navigation, and weather monitoring.  

One of the latest innovations in this area is using high-altitude balloons as floating cell towers. For example, Alphabet's Loon company uses high-altitude balloons with communication equipment to provide internet access to remote or disaster-stricken areas.  

Moreover, companies like Open Space Systems are developing systems to launch and recover payloads, such as satellites, to and from the stratosphere using high-altitude balloons as a low-cost alternative to traditional satellite launches. 


Sub-orbital testing services offer a variety of platforms for conducting experiments and gathering data in the sub-orbital environment outside the Earth's atmosphere. 

Whether you choose a sub-orbital reusable launch vehicle (SRLV), sounding rocket, fixed-winged platform (parabolic flights), or high-altitude balloon, it is crucial to select a forum that aligns with your specific testing requirements and can integrate with your existing tools for maximum efficiency.  

The trend of private sector involvement in sub-orbital missions along with government agencies is on the rise, which is expected to offer new opportunities for scientific research, technology development, commercial product testing, and educational purposes. 

The data and information gathered through these sub-orbital testing services platforms can provide valuable insights and contribute to the advancement of various industries. 

Interested to know more about the advancing technologies in your industry vertical? Get the latest market studies and insights from BIS Research. Connect with us at [email protected] to learn and understand more.