Featured Image Source: SpaceX
On Thursday, June 17, Spaceflight Inc. announced it contracted SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program launch services to deploy satellites for multiple companies. Spaceflight Inc. manages missions. The company says the contract secures rides on several SpaceX launches through the entire year of 2021. SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare program allows companies to launch small satellites to space destinations for as low as $1 million (M), by sharing spacecraft with a larger payload during a mission. Booking an entire rocket flight can cost up to $60 million. The Rideshare program gives companies a much affordable option to launch small payloads into orbit ranging up to 200 kilograms (kg) – “$1M for 200kg to SSO [Sun-Synchronous Orbit] with additional mass at $5k per kg,” SpaceX’s website details.
“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,” the President and CEO at Spaceflight Inc. Curt Blake said:
“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 stated –“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.”
These Rideshare missions will fly aboard SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, which is the most flown operational rocket in the United States. Falcon 9 is reliable and features innovative technology. Its second-stage payload fairing is capable of propelling over 20 tons to orbit. The rocket’s first-stage booster is capable of carrying payload into orbit then it reenters Earth’s fiery atmosphere to perform a controlled landing on autonomous drone ships at sea. SpaceX lands rockets to reuse; reusability decreases the cost of the mission.
Satellite rideshare specialist Spaceflight Inc. signed a multi-launch agreement with SpaceX for payload room on "several" launches through the end of 2021. https://t.co/rcRgfvyxSV pic.twitter.com/LTDIntMK6i— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) June 17, 2020
Spaceflight Inc.'s first satellite deployment under SpaceX’s Rideshare Program could take place as soon as next week, during SpaceX’s next Starlink mission [date pending]. The mission is targeted to launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This mission will deploy a cluster of (approximately) 58 SpaceX’s Starlink satellites and 2 BlackSky satellites – Spaceflight Inc. customer. BlackSky, is an Earth observation satellite; 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.
"SpaceX has proved schedule consistency and launch reliability through its Starlink missions, even during this unprecedented time, and we are eager to offer it as a launch option to our customers," Blake said.