Featured Image Source: Spaceflight Inc. (digital depiction)
Spaceflight Inc. revealed its next-generation orbital transfer vehicle called ‘Sherpa-FX’, which is scheduled to deploy atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in December 2020. Last month, Spaceflight Inc. announced it signed a Multi-Launch Agreement with SpaceX, to book Falcon 9 missions on future launches under SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare program which deploys payload into orbit for a lower cost by sharing Falcon 9’s fairing with another company’s larger payload.
The Sherpa-FX orbital transfer vehicle is a spacecraft capable of carrying multiple payloads aboard and offer insight to customers about a variety of telemetry. The photograph above is a digital depiction of the spacecraft. During the mission with SpaceX, referred to as SXRS-3, the Sherpa-FX spacecraft will carry 16 payloads by different companies, including NASA, HawkEye 360, Loft Orbital, iQPS, Astrocast, and the University of South Florida. It will also transport one payload for space burial service provider Celestis and several technologies intended for spacecraft identification and tracking. It will be the first time the Sherpa-FX vehicle is launched into orbit. The demonstration mission aims to prove the craft’s technology can keep multiple payloads safe and reduce ‘space congestion’ by using a single spacecraft to carry all payloads. “Spaceflight customers will have access to flight-proven technologies that can mitigate space congestion and provide the foundation of effective and responsible space traffic management,” the company wrote in a press release.
“Spaceflight is committed to providing unmatched launch flexibility for customers, whether that’s re-manifesting on a different vehicle due to delays, deployments to exotic or special orbits, or the ability to fly and operate hosted payloads. In-space transportation is essential to meeting our customer’s specific needs to get their spacecraft delivered to orbit exactly when and where they want it,” the Senior Vice President of business development Grant Bonin said on July 15, “If you think of typical rideshare as sharing a seat on a train headed to a popular destination, our next-generation Sherpa program enables us to provide a more complete ‘door-to-door transportation service’.”
“We aim to make getting to space easier, faster, and with more reliability than ever before,” the President and Chief Executive Officer of Spaceflight Curt Blake stated. “To do that, we have to build flexibility into everything we offer — from our contracting practices, to integration processes that enable spacecraft to move seamlessly between launch vehicles, to providing customers with a wide range of mission services. Now we’re solving some of the industry’s most pressing challenges by providing greater spacecraft management awareness and customized orbital delivery. We couldn’t be more excited to expand our comprehensive suite of launch services to support our customers’ mission needs.”
Spaceflight Inc. upcoming collaboration mission with SpaceX will deploy a pair of BlackSky satellites soon, aboard Starlink’s tenth mission. The mission has been delayed a couple of times "to allow more time for checkouts". It is expected to be executed before this month ends. “Spaceflight procured a portion of the launch for its customer BlackSky, designed and built the adapter and harnessing, integrated the spacecraft, and provided mission management services for its customer,” company representatives for Spaceflight Inc. announced.