Featured Image Source: BlackSky
SpaceX is ready to deploy more Starlink satellites to build its broadband internet network. Initially, the company planned to conduct the launch last month on June 26, but the launch was postponed – “SpaceX is standing down […] in order to allow additional time for pre-launch checkouts in advance of its tenth Starlink mission. Falcon 9 and its payloads, 57 Starlink satellites and 2 satellites from BlackSky, a Spaceflight customer, remain healthy.,” company representatives wrote. After a couple of days delayed, the Starlink mission is on track to be conducted next week on July 8th.
Spaceflight Industries selected SpaceX as a launch provider to deploy two BlackSky satellites aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on the upcoming Starlink-9 mission, under a SmallSat Rideshare Program contract. The program allows companies to launch small satellites alongside a larger payload to space destinations for a lower cost. The President and CEO at Spaceflight Inc. Curt Blake stated:
“By offering a variety of launch options, we can better meet our customer’s specific launch needs and offer increased launch flexibility. This agreement with SpaceX will be particularly attractive to SmallSat customers. […] SpaceX’s consistent launch schedule coupled with our deep expertise in mission management and integration services offers Rideshare options with greater reliability. This agreement will allow us to package multiple payloads onto a single port to significantly reduce the cost per spacecraft for the end-customer.”
Regarding their partnership, SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Tom Ochinero said – “Spaceflight is one of the most experienced companies offering mission management and integration services for SmallSat operators, and we are proud to offer their customers the best launch solution on the market. Together, Spaceflight and SpaceX are providing small satellite operators access to space in the most reliable and cost-effective way possible.”
It will be SpaceX’s second mission under the Rideshare program. The first mission was conducted last month. The pair of Black Sky satellites that will hitch a ride are Earth-observation satellites that capture high-resolution aerial photographs of our planet. The company operates four BlackSky satellites which were deployed in 2018 and 2019, and hopes to have a total of 16 satellites in low Earth orbit by 2021. “In addition to the tenth batch of Starlink broadband satellites, we’re excited to take BlackSky’s 5th and 6th Earth observation microsatellites to orbit. We are happy to help BlackSky execute their long-term goal of operating a 60-satellite constellation whose goal is to shorten revisit times to 10 to 15 minutes, and sharpen resolution to under one meter,” Spaceflight Inc. representatives said in a press release.
A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to liftoff next week, “Targeting Wednesday, July 8 for Falcon 9’s tenth launch of Starlink, which will also carry 2 spacecraft from Spaceflight Inc.’s customer BlackSky to orbit,” SpaceX announced today. It will propel the satellites from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at around 12:15 p.m. EDT. This will be the tenth Starlink mission that is expected to deploy 57 internet-beaming satellites into low Earth orbit as part of SpaceX’s broadband network.
Targeting Wednesday, July 8 for Falcon 9’s tenth launch of Starlink, which will also carry 2 spacecraft from @SpaceflightInc’s customer BlackSky to orbit— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 2, 2020
The four-times-flown Falcon 9 that will carry the satellites into orbit, will return from space about 9 minutes after liftoff. It will conduct a vertical landing on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous drone ship, that will be waiting in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 632 kilometers downrange. The amazing feat significantly reduces the cost of spaceflight, which enables SpaceX to offer much affordable rideshare prices to customers. SpaceX’s goal is to fly a particular first-stage rocket booster ten times. As of today, the most a Falcon 9 first-stage has flown is five times. Wednesday’s mission will mark the fifth re-flight of booster B1051.5 –It previously conducted: SpaceX’s Demo-1 mission, which launched Crew Dragon to the International Space Station for the first time; RADARSAT mission, which deployed satellites; also, two previous Starlink missions, Starlink-3 and Starlink-6.