Moore's law, Wright's law, space exploration, satellite, lifespan


Understanding how technology changes over time is important for industry, science, and government policy. Empirical examination of the capability of technologies across various domains reveals that they often progress at an exponential rate. In addition, mathematical models of technological development have proven successful in deepening our understanding. One area that has not been shown to demonstrate exponential trends, until recently, has been space travel.

This paper will present plots illustrating trends in the mean lifespan of satellites whose lifespans ended in a given year. Our study identifies both Wright’s law and Moore’s law regressions. For the Moore’s law regression, we found a doubling time of approximately 15 years. For Wright’s law we can see an approximate doubling of lifespan with every doubling of accumulated launches. We conclude by presenting a conundrum generated by the use of Moore’s law that is the subject of ongoing research.