What's missing for everyday people to be able to launch his own satellite (or any other space objects) into space? I mean, I know that mostly money and technology, but what does it actually mean?

What kind of equipment should I have to be able to launch something into orbit?

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, the threshold to getting your own cubesat in orbit is much much lower than what Deer Hunter lists below. I don't know the complete set of prerequisites, but I know cubesats are popular as student projects nowadays. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 7:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Gravity... I think $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 12:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Related: Could I build my own spaceship? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Yes, I really like this question because it is focused on unmanned where my question was focused on manned. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @called2voyage Yes, that's why I didn't suggest this was a duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


The infrastructure you are missing is a-plentyful:

  • A launch range and vast swaths of land/sea for the spent stages to fall (unless you are using a SSTO/reusable craft). Unless you have lots of money or the right of eminent domain, this is going to be prohibitive.
  • A satellite control center (can be rented/outsourced, though).
  • Assigned frequencies for uplink/downlink, telemetry and commands.
  • Ground crew (to assemble/service launchers, mate with spacecraft, supervise and conduct actual launches).
  • A license from a government authority.
  • Insurance coverage.

Actual launchers might be easier to come by especially if you are launching a small payload. DARPA/US Army/etc. have made great progress in the "Operationally Responsive Space" program; other countries may be willing to take your payloads on surplus ballistic missiles.

  • $\begingroup$ With respect to "assigned frequencies" would 'radio piracy' be possible/practical (ignoring morality) in international waters (or perhaps even in a country without strong enforcement of such laws)? (A similar exception might apply to "a license" and presumably "insurance coverage".) $\endgroup$
    – user56
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulA.Clayton - if you are a citizen of some state, this state will have the right to prosecute you for not adhering to regulations. Insurance will be useful to cover claims after a failed launch/mishap. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 5:28

Building and launching your own rocket? Space is hard. A lot of fortunes have been lost by people who have underestimated the difficulty and cost of doing it themselves (and over-estimated investor confidence). (Musk and Branson have deep pockets, so they could deal with it, but it's harder than they thought, too.)

But other people will launch stuff for you. According to the Wikipedia article on CubeSats, a basic CubeSat could be constructed for about \$50,000 and launched for another \$100,000. And you'll probably have a 2W transmitter that you'll have to communicate with on Earth. Beyond that it's all regulatory. That's specifically a CubeSat because it fits with other CubeSats into a standardized launcher, which is usually carried up as a secondary payload. That batch launching contributes to the low price.


But you might get it launched for free through NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative if it helps to advance their work.


Then there are licensing issues.


Not cheap or easy, but still cheaper and easier than one might have thought.


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