Spaceflight Industries selected SpaceX as a launch provider to deploy two BlackSky satellites aboard SpaceX’s next Starlink mission this month, as part of the company’s SmallSat Rideshare Program. SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program allows companies to launch small satellites to space destinations for as low as $1 million by sharing spacecraft with a larger payload during a mission. Booking an entire rocket flight can cost up to $60 million, so, the rideshare program gives companies a much affordable option to launch small payloads into orbit.
SpaceX is leveraging its experience in building spacecraft to deploy its own satellite broadband internet network called Starlink. The aerospace company conducts a Starlink dedicated mission at least twice a month. Each Falcon 9 rocket is capable of deploying a batch of 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.
Spaceflight Industries vice president Nick Meski said the pair of BlackSky satellites will hitch a ride aboard a Falcon 9 rocket with 60 SpaceX Starlink satellites on board. The mission is scheduled to take place on June 24, SpaceNews reports. BlackSky, is an Earth observation satellite manufactured by Spaceflight Industries. There are currently 4 BlackSky satellites in orbit which were deployed in 2018 and 2019. The company hopes to have a total of 16 satellites in low Earth orbit by 2021. BlackSKy satellites will be capable of providing 1-meter resolution imagery for most major cities on an hourly basis with 16 satellites. The company aims to deploy a constellation of 60 satellites in the future, to sharpen the imagery resolution and shorten the time in which the images are produced to 15-minutes. Merski also shared with reporters that BlackSky has a ground network of 6 gateway stations, and aims to build 10 gateway stations by mid-2022.
A group of 4 BlackSky satellites are booked to fly aboard Indian spacecraft later this year. “The market is changing so you don’t have to book all these launches 24 months in advance,” Merski told reporters. “We’ve got plans laid in place in pretty advanced negotiations with a couple different providers.”