Engineers working for Spaceflight, a Seattle-based launch services company, are in the final steps of preparing for the first launch of new robotic free flyers carrying more than 70 small government and commercial satellites into polar orbit later this year aboard a dedicated flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The launch of five commercial Iridium message relay satellites and a pair of U.S.-German orbiting geophysics probes on a Falcon 9 rocket from California has been delayed three days to May 22, and a week-long schedule slip to May 31 is expected for the next SpaceX flight from Cape Canaveral with an SES communications payload.
Spaceflight Industries has booked reservations for two commercial rideshare missions on Arianespace’s Vega rocket, officials announced Tuesday, beginning with a proof-of-concept flight in early 2019 of a new Italian-built multi-payload dispenser tailored to accommodate small satellites and CubeSats seeking a ride into orbit.
A Russian Soyuz booster lifted off Friday from Kazakhstan on a complex mission to deploy 73 satellites into three different orbits, including a Russian spacecraft to locate forest fires, 48 CubeSats for Planet’s global Earth observation fleet, and eight nanosatellites for Spire Global’s commercial weather network.
United Launch Alliance chief executive Tory Bruno said Thursday the company will offer more rides for CubeSats aboard future Atlas 5 rocket flights, and give some away for free, in a bid to tap into a growing market of small satellites with applications in education, scientific research and commercial business.