SpaceX Starlink June 13 launch (Source: SpaceX Flickr)

Spaceflight announces SpaceX Transporter-2 customers

Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. announced it will have 36 customer payloads onboard the next SpaceX rideshare mission.  The Transporter-2 Falcon 9 launch to sun synchronous orbit (SSO) is expected no earlier than late June 2021 from Florida and will include numerous IoT satellites, a couple of RF survey satellites, and likely several imaging satellites.

Spaceflight will have two orbital transportation vehicles (OTVs), or space tugs, designed to drop satellites into exact orbits, including the first electric propulsion vehicle, Sherpa-LTE1. The rideshare service company is managing the launch of 14 organizations’ spacecraft, including six microsatellites, 29 cubesats, and one hosted payload.

IoT spacecraft onboard the SXSR-5 Spaceflight Transporter-2 flight include Astrocast’s IoT 3U cubesats, Loft Orbital’s YAM-2, OQ Technology’s Tiger-2 NB-IoT pathfinder, and a cluster of Swarm Technologies SpaceBEEs.   Astrocast will add 5 cubesats to its IoT constellation on this flight.  YAM-2 is a larger satellite bus and will virtually host Eutelsat’s ELO service. Tiger-2 is OQ Technology’s first dedicated satellite, a 6U cubesat designed for proving out NB-IoT services between satellites and terrestrial IoT devices.  The SpaceBEEs are 1/4 U cubesats using licensed spectrum to communicate with Semtech LoRA-based devices on the ground.

Satellite-cell phone communications will get a boost with Lynk Global’s Shannon satellite. The spacecraft will expand upon the company’s series of experimentation and development work proving unmodified cell phones can send and receive messages from space. If all goes well, Lynk plans to launch 10 “Pizza box” style satellites between December 2021 and the end of 2022 to provide “mobile base stations of last resort” for cellular operators.

Both HawkEye 360 and Kleos Space are launching the next clusters of their RF survey satellites on the SXSR-5 mission. HawkEye will add its third cluster of three cubesats while Kleos will have a cluster of four satellites for its Polar Vigilance Mission.

In-Space Missions Limited’s Faraday Phoenix is a 6U cubesat carrying multiple RF payloads and an optical imaging payload.  It is expected to conduct IoT and RF survey missions among its many tasks.

Orbital Sidekick’s Aurora will be the company’s first free-flying hyperspectral satellite, the first of six 100 kilogram ESPA class satellites. The custom hyperspectral imaging payload capturing more than 400 spectral bands in the visible to shortrange IR range of 400 to 2500 nm will provide resolution of around 8 meters, the highest resolution commercial hyperspectral imagery available to date.

Spire Global’s will add more LEMUR-2 satellites to its constellation, buy Spaceflight didn’t have a number as to how many it would be carrying for the company. The company’s constellation of LEMUR satellites collect ADS-B aircraft tracking, AIS ship tracking, and GPS-RO weather data.

Others ridesharing firms will join Spaceflight on the Transporter-2 mission.  German-based Exolaunch Italian D-Orbit also have customer blocks that will be announced closer to launch time while Momentus has been bumped off the flight by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) due to national security concerns over Momentus’ current corporate ownership.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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