Frustrated over delays with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, DARPA is considering launching an innovative experimental satellite on India’s PSLV rocket, SpaceNewsreports.
Jeremy Palmer, program manager for DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, told attendees at the Milsatcom USA conference that officials are hoping to launch the eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technology (eXCITe) satellite during the second half of fiscal year 2018, i.e., from April to September 2018.
The eXCITe spacecraft consists of 14 small satlets aggregated together into a single payload weighing 155 kg. The satlets, which are supplied by NovaWurks, have autonomous capabilities and are capable of operating individually or being aggregated into larger, more capable satellites.
eXCITe was originally scheduled to fly as a secondary payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. It would have been deployed from a Spaceflight-supplied Sherpa payload dispenser, which aggregates smaller secondary payloads.
However, repeated slips in SpaceX’s launch schedule required Spaceflight to seek alternative rides to space for payloads that would have been deployed by the Sherpa dispenser.
DARPA would need a U.S. government waiver to fly eXCITe on the PSLV. The government has been granting an increasing number of waivers to American satellite manufacturers who say there is a shortage of domestic launch opportunities.
U.S. launch companies have pushed back agains the waivers, saying India’s PSLV and GSLV launchers are subsidized by the nation’s space agency, ISRO. A number of U.S. companies are developing launch vehicles specifically aimed at the small satellite market, but none has yet made a succesful flight to orbit.
While Elon Musk keeps adding missions to the moon and Mars to SpaceX’s already crowded launch manifest, a Seattle company has been forced to find alternative rides to space for 89 satellites originally booked to launch on a Falcon 9 booster.
The small spacecraft were set to be deployed using Spaceflight’s SHERPA carrier, which would have been a secondary payload on Taiwan’s Formosat-5 satellite. The launch was originally scheduled for the end of 2015, but it recently suffered yet another delay.
“We found each of our customers an alternative launch that was within the same time frame,” [Spaceflight’s President, Curt ] Blake wrote. “It took a huge effort, but within two weeks, the team hustled to have all customers who wanted to be rebooked confirmed on other launches!”
Spaceflight was anticipating that the launch would finally take place around May or June, but Blake said SpaceX “recently communicated their 2017 manifest, and the impact on the Formosat-5 mission is significant.”
“We learned our launch would occur potentially much later than expected,” he said. By some accounts, the Formosat-5 mission has been shifted into 2018. That’s what led Spaceflight to look at alternatives….
The payloads that had been scheduled for deployment from the SHERPA carrier include Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 6 satellite, which is designed to test a midwave-infrared imaging system; and the Pathfinder-2 satellite, an Earth-observing spacecraft that serves as a prototype for Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky constellation.
The Small Satellite 2016 Conference is now over. Below are links to Parabolic Arc’s coverage of the conference and the CubeSat Workshop that preceded it last weekend. There are also links to announcements made during the conference and in recent weeks.
Spaceflight CEO Jason Andrews gave at talk this week at the Small Satellite Conference in Utah. Below is a summary of his address derived from Tweets by Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) and David Hurst (@OrbitalDave).
Spaceflight Jason Andrews, CEO
Spaceflight scheduled to launch its SHERPA spacecraft carrier aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in late October
SHERPA is secondary payload to Formosat-5 spacecraft
SHERPA will deploy 89 satellites ranging from 2U CubeSats to 150-kg spacecraft
Launch will set a new world record for the number of spacecraft on a single launch vehicle
At Spaceflights’s request, Falcon 9 will drop perigee before deploying SHERPA to ensure spacecraft will de-orbit within 25 years
Spacecraft will be placed in sun-synchronous orbit
There’s a lot of demand for SSO launches
Lately there has been increasing demand for launching spacecraft to mid-inclination orbits
Spaceflight has flown 93 satellites on various launch vehicles to date
Company has 150 satellite launches on order that will fly on five launch vehicles
Spaceflight wants to make buying a space launch as easy as purchasing an airline ticket
With our Falcon 9 Dedicated Rideshare Launch Services, we are able to drastically reduce the price point for smallsat launch. This holiday season, we’re taking this one step further to offer a drastically reduced price point for CubeSat launch – $200,000 for a 3U – nearly a 33% discount from our list price.
This launch will nominally go to a 500km Sun Synch Orbit in 2018, and the offer is only valid until Dec 31st or when the SHERPA port becomes full. For more information on the launch and a quick and easy purchase, contact us at 866-204-1707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. & SEATTLE, June 24, 2015 (NovaWurks/Spaceflight Services PR) – NovaWurks™ Inc. and Spaceflight Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Spaceflight Industries, Inc. offering commercial rideshare launch services, today announced a signed launch contract for a NovaWurks Payload Test Bed (PTB) mission planned for the third quarter of 2017. PTB-2, the second of the company’s Payload Test Bed missions, is scheduled to launch into a sun-synchronous orbit on Spaceflight’s SHERPA in-space transportation platform aboard a U.S. commercial launch vehicle.
Flown on NovaWurks’ Hyper-Integrated Satlet (HISat™) enabled satellite bus, the PTB-2 mission will carry customer demonstration payloads, experiments or subsystems to enable organizations to test capabilities in space at a fraction of the cost of dedicated missions. The PTB-2 mission will provide hosting services such as power, attitude control and communications for up to 75 kg of customer payloads.
DARPA’s ambitious Phoenix program, which aims to transform the way satellites are built and operated, will get an orbital test next year in a satellite launch that will combine the efforts of two up and coming NewSpace companies.
NovaWurks, of Los Alaimos, Calif., has signed an agreement with Spaceflight Inc., of Seattle, to launch the eXCITe spacecraft during the third quarter of 2015. NovaWurks’ tiny “satlet” will be part of approximately 2,650 lbs. (1,200 kg.) of other rideshare spacecraft that will aboard Spaceflight’s SHERPA in-space transportation platform.
SEATTLE, July 8, 2014 (Spaceflight Inc. PR) — Spaceflight Inc., the company reinventing the model for launching small satellites into space, today announced it has signed the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to a launch services agreement for the Eu:CROPIS mission. The Eu:CROPIS spacecraft is scheduled for a rideshare launch on a Spaceflight SHERPA vehicle in 2017.
SEATTLE, April 30, 2014 – Spaceflight Inc., the company reinventing the model for launching small satellites into space, today announced it has secured a launch service agreement to orbit its “SHERPA” hosted payload and in-space transportation system. Spaceflight’s inaugural SHERPA mission will deploy up to 1,200 kilograms of customer satellite payloads into low Earth orbit during the second half of 2015 on an undisclosed launch vehicle.
Seattle, WA, 5 AUGUST 2013 (Spaceflight, Inc. PR) — Spaceflight Inc. (Spaceflight) recently completed a system definition review for its SHERPA™ in-space tug and hosted payload platform. With this milestone, Spaceflight has announced hosted payload opportunities starting in 2015.
Spaceflight and its partner Andrews Space (Andrews) recently completed a System Definition Review to finalize the SHERPA™ family configuration and pave the way for full scale development and first flight in 2015. With this review Spaceflight is moving forward with detailed design and hardware procurement.
Seattle, WA, November 1, 2012 (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight Inc. (Spaceflight) with its partner Andrews Space (Andrews) recently completed a Preliminary Design Review for the Spaceflight Secondary Payload System (SSPS) to support a launch in early 2013.
Seattle, WA – May 7, 2012 (Spaceflight Inc. PR) — Spaceflight Inc. (Spaceflight) unveiled today its SHERPA in-space tug, which is dedicated to hosting and deploying small and secondary payloads.
“SHERPA is the next step in providing space access for small and secondary payloads,” said Jason Andrews, President and CEO of Spaceflight Inc. “SHERPA builds on our Spaceflight Secondary Payload System (SSPS) by incorporating a propulsion and power generation system to allow us to host payloads, as well as place them in an orbit other than the primary payload’s orbit.” (more…)