Today, June 30, 2021, SpaceX successfully launched its Transporter-2 dedicated small satellite rideshare mission, putting 85 commercial and government spacecraft into orbit along with three SpaceX Starlink satellites.
Originally scheduled for launch on June 25, with a second attempt on June 29 disrupted by a wayward aircraft straying into controlled sky, the third attempt proved successful. The launch took place at 3:31 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It marked SpaceX’s second launch to a polar orbit from Florida. It was the eighth launch and landing of this Falcon 9 first stage in one year, with the first stage landing on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Transporter-2 was launched in a polar/sun synchronous orbit (SSO), with SpaceX planning to conduct three dedicated SSO rideshare launches per year for customers, with other rideshare opportunities available on Falcon 9 launches on a space available basis throughout the year.
Onboard Transporter-2 were numerous IoT, imaging, and other commercial spacecraft, with three different companies – D-Orbit, Exolaunch, and Spaceflight putting space tugs onboard to deliver customer spacecraft to precise orbits; Spaceflight had two separate tugs.
Due to the number of spacecraft onboard as well as the reluctance of some rideshare aggregators to disclose a full customer list prior to launch, information on the total number and type of spacecraft onboard is still emerging. The information below should be considered a snapshot of the satellites onboard.
Loft Orbital YAM-2 and YAM-3 have a variety of “virtual” and hardware-based customers onboard, including Eutelsat IoT ELO missions 1 and 2.
In-Space Mission’s Faraday Phoenix is a 6U cubesat with 6 customers onboard, including Airbus and LoRaWAN IoT-using Lacuna Space.
Astrocast adds five 3U satellites to its operational fleet, making a total of 10 production satellites in orbit so far this year.
Fleet Space Technologies Centauri 4 is a 3U satellite, the company’s sixth overall.
Lacuna Space is reportedly hosting a LoRaWAN project onboard the In-Space Mission’s Faraday Phoenix.
The two Loft Orbital YAMs are operating Eutelsat IoT ELO 1 and ELO 2, with one of the two satellites also carrying Totum Labs 1U technology demonstration payload for a proprietary IoT service operating on 2.4 GHz that can track items both outdoors and in buildings via satellite.
Swarm Technologies had the largest number of smallest satellites on board, adding 28 SpaceBEE 0.25U sized satellites. Each SpaceBEE is about the size of a piece of Texas Toast (0.25 cm thick, 1 cm x 1 cm square). Swarm uses Semtech LoRa silicon along with its own proprietary network protocols to provide low-cost connectivity to devices on the ground.
Cellular/ Cell tower in the sky
Lynk’s Shannon satellite is the company’s second free flyer to demonstrate and refine its “cell tower in space” concept to deliver service to unmodified cell phones on the ground, making satellite-to-phone services available anywhere in the world without specialized hardware or software. It is the company’s sixth demonstration overall, with earlier payloads flown onboard Cygnus cargo vehicles.
OQ Technology Tiger-2 is the company’s first satellite, 6U in size. The satellite will test and provide connectivity to NB-IoT devices in remote and rural areas.
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging satellites
Capella Space added another satellite to its constellation, giving it a total of six SAR satellite in orbit to date, with at least one planned for launch this year.
ICEYE put three of its 6U production spacecraft into orbit along with a fourth next-generation demonstration satellite. The company has put a total of 14 satellites into orbit.
Umbra Labs launched its first SAR satellite. The Umbra-2001 is expected to deliver 15 centimeter resolution imagery though the use of a very rigid antenna.
Spire Global put six more of its Lemur-2 satellites into orbit, which do a combination of AIS ship-tracking, ADS-B aircraft tracking, and GPS-RO weather data collection. At least two of the Spire satellites launched reportedly have optical cross-links onboard.
Hawkeye 360 put up a cluster of three satellites into orbit. It’s the company’s third cluster of satellites in orbit.
Kleos Space now has its second cluster of four satellite in orbit. The Luxembourg-based company say it is on track to launch its third cluster by the end of the year.