Featured Image Source: NanoAvionics
SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program offers companies an option to launch small satellites by sharing spacecraft with a larger payload aboard a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket for a price tag starting at $1 million, booking an entire rocket flight can cost about $60 million. The program significantly reduces the cost of spaceflight. Exolaunch, a launch service provider from Germany, announced it contracted SpaceX’s Rideshare services to deploy a pair of NanoAvionics' 6-unit cubesats. “Under the contract, Exolaunch will provide launch, integration, and deployment services to the NanoAvionics-built satellites. The first contracted spacecraft will be launched to a sun-synchronous orbit on the Falcon 9 SmallSat-dedicated rideshare mission targeted for launch in December 2020. Another spacecraft is planned for launch in 2021,” Exolaunch wrote in a press release. NanoAvionics Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Vytenis Buzas stated –“We are glad to be collaborating with Exolaunch on these upcoming satellite launches. The company is an experienced and trusted partner that responds well to our needs. Not only do they provide deployment systems with a solid flight heritage, but their flexibility towards offering the most suitable launch solutions is extremely valuable to our company and customers.”
NanoAvionics' 6-unit satellite bus includes a propulsion system capable of performing maneuvers in space. Upon deployment, the satellite can reach higher orbits in ‘precision flight in formations.’ The propulsion system also helps the vehicle have the proper orbit and not be affected by atmospheric drag. The NanoAvionics satellites will be deployed into orbit using the EXOpod, a cubesat deployer manufactured by Exolaunch. “EXOpod has a substantial flight heritage, having deployed 80 cubesats of various sizes to date. EXOpod will be mounted on a Falcon 9 ESPA Grande port with EXOport, a flexible multi-port adapter designed to enable optimal accommodation of small satellites,” the company said.
“Exolaunch is proud to enter a collaboration with the highly experienced NanoAvionics team. Their flight-proven and reliable nano-satellite buses allow customers to exclusively focus on their applications and reduce costs and lead time," Jeanne Medvedeva, Commercial Director at Exolaunch stated last week, "Adding to this approach, Exolaunch is ready to utilize its launch expertise and deployers to support the launch of NanoAvionics’ satellites on Falcon 9. We look forward to working together further on upcoming projects.”
Exolaunch has booked additional rideshare missions for other companies under a SpaceX rideshare contract. Medvedeva told reporters in April:
“Participation in SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program will allow Exolaunch to offer reliable and cost-efficient rideshare options out of the United States. Most of our customers have been proactively requesting such opportunities.”
SpaceX recently shared that ever since the SmallSat Rideshare Program was rolled out, companies have signed-up almost 100 satellites to be deployed on future missions by a Falcon 9 rocket.