Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program offers companies the option to launch small satellites to space destinations for $1 million by sharing spacecraft with other payload aboard a Falcon 9 rocket during a flight. Booking an entire rocket flight can cost up to $60 million, the rideshare program gives companies with a smaller budget the opportunity to launch small payloads into orbit at a lower price.
Next week, on January 14, SpaceX will conduct its first dedicated rideshare mission called ‘Transporter-1.’ The Transporter-1 mission will carry payloads for various companies and organizations, including: NASA, NanoRacks, NanoAvionics, Exolaunch, Swarm Technologies, Spaceflight, HawkEye, iQPS, Umbra Labs, Celestis, Astrocast, Tyvax Nano-Satellite Systems, US DOD, USAF, KelplarianTech, NearSpace, Space Domain Awareness, R2, LINCOLNSHIRE, inOrbit, PlanetiQ, Capella, Kepler, Astro Digital, D-Orbit, Israel defense, spaceQ, and UVSQ. Overall, the Transporter-1 mission will deploy approximately 70 payloads (or more) into an altitude of around 500 kilometers above Earth to operate in Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO).
SpaceX also plans to launch 10 Starlink satellites alongside all the Transporter-1 payloads, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) document. SpaceX obtained approval to launch the 10 internet-beaming Starlink satellites into Polar Orbit; It will be the first fleet of Starlink satellites operating in Polar Orbit. SpaceX states the polar orbit satellites would be used “to initiate its service to some of the most remote regions of the country,” including areas in Alaska, the FCC document reads.
SpaceX will launch all the Transporter-1 payloads atop a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket, identified as B1051-8. Falcon 9 is the first orbital-class reusable rocket in the world. Booster B1051-8 previously conducted eight missions. It will be the first time SpaceX engineers will reuse a particular rocket nine times; Their goal is to refly a first-stage booster ten times. Falcon 9 B1051-8 is scheduled to liftoff for the ninth time on Thursday, January 14 at 9:19 a.m. Eastern Time from Launch Pad-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida [date is subject to change].
The Transporter-1 payloads will be loaded atop Falcon 9 in a configuration like pictured below, not including the Starlink satellites (source: SpaceX).