Categories
aerospace Amazon Web Services astronauts astronomy AWS Axelspace Blue Origin ispace JAXA JPL Kacific Lockheed Martin Mitsubishi Electric Mitsubishi Heavy Industries nasa new space Planet Rocket Lab Sierra Nevada Corp. Sky Perfect JSat Skyrora Space Walker spacex startups Synspective

SPACETIDE 2021 Spring: Annual Conference

Concept

SPACETIDE works across industries paving the way to access new space business. The main conference, which has been held annually since 2015, has been an important platform where individuals such as entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, designers, and researchers can interact with organizations such as space ventures, major aerospace companies, non-space companies, and government agencies. The concept of our 5th conference, SPACETIDE 2021 Spring, is ‘the beginning of the space commercialization phase’. Although the space industry already has significant funding and has seen technological developments to complement a variety of visions held by space actors, the widespread commercialization of the industry has just begun. The trend is spreading not only within the United States and various European countries, but also to Asian countries. This year, more than 60 speakers from over 10 countries/regions will gather to discuss topics at the forefront of the industry. We invite you to participate in SPACETIDE 2021 Spring.

 

Info & Schedule

Date, Time and Location

Day 1 (virtual event)
– Date and Time (Japanese Standard Time) : March 23 (Tue), 2021. 09:00-19:00
– Location : EventHub (online event platform): https://eventhub.jp/en/

Day 2 (in-person event)
– Date and Time (Japanese Standard Time) : March 24 (Wed), 2021. 09:15-16:30 (doors will open at 08:30)
– Location : Tokyo Toranomon Hills Mori Tower 5th floor, 1-23-3 Toranomon, Minato-ku, 105-6390 Tokyo, Japan. (Directly connected to B1 Exit of Toranomon Hills Station of the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line)
Access Map : https://forum.academyhills.com/toranomon/en/access/
* The recordings for both Day 1 and Day 2 will be available to purchase for specific Ticket holders . Please check the Ticket Type for details before you purchase.
* Simultaneous interpretation in Japanese and English is available1. We will inform you how to view th recording after your purchase.

 

Ticket Type

Ticket A :
30,000JPY (Approx. 300USD)(Only 60 tickets available)
Day 1 virtual participation + Day2 in-person participation *1 *2 *3

Ticket B :
10,000JPY (Approx. 100USD)(Only 100 tickets available)
Day 1 virtual participation + Day 2 recording *1 *2 *3

Ticket C :
3,000JPY (Approx. 30USD)(Only 300 tickets available)
Only Day 1 virtual participation *1 *2

*1 All ticket holders (Ticket A/B/C) will be able to access the Day 1 recording from March 29, 2021 to June 30, 2021. We will inform you how to view th recording after your purchase.
*2 All ticket holders (Ticket A/B/C) will be able to network with other ticket holders during Day 1 on the virtual event platform, EventHub.
*3 The holders of Ticket A or B can access the Day 2 recording from March 29, 2021 to June 30, 2021. We will inform you how to view th recording after your purchase.

 

Organizer

SPACETIDE Foundation

 

Sponsorship

Kyocera Corporation,

SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation,

Sakura internet Inc. (exhibited instead of sponsorship),

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation,

Shimizu Corporation,

SMBC Nikko Securities Co., Ltd.,

Taisho Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.,

Tokai Tokyo Securities Co., Ltd.

 

Cooperation
MORI Building co.,Ltd

 

Supported By
TBA

 

Safety notice for those who participate in Day 2

The event will be conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) and also with that of the venue. Seats will be arranged at pre-defined distances. Please note, the event may be postponed or canceled in the event that MHLW, government agencies, or regulatory authorities request us to do so. Furthermore, even if in the absence of a formal request from the aforementioned parties, SPACETIDE may choose to postpone, cancel or change the contents of the event to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection, should we feel this is necessary.

 

Requests to those who participate in Day 2

On the day of the event, please ensure your temperature is below 37.5 degrees Celsius and please wear a mask upon arrival at the venue. Those who are not wearing masks will not be permitted entry. Wearing a mask for the duration of the event including when you leave is mandatory.
– We will measure your temperature upon entry, for which we request your kind cooperation. Any participants whose temperature is 37.5 degrees Celsius or above will not be admitted into the event.
*Note that tickets will not be refunded in this instance.
– We ask that you disinfect your hands with alcohol when you enter and leave the venue. Please observe our behavioral restrictions to prevent infection.
– Please refrain from lending, borrowing and exchanging goods between participants and guests at the event
– If there is a possibility of infection at the venue, or should there be a disclosure request from a local government or health center, we may provide information to designated organizations for the purpose of identifying infected person(s). In addition, we may ask all participants to cooperate in surveys and interviews.
– Please refrain from coughing / sneezing, wash your hands diligently, and disinfect your hands.- If you meet any of the following conditions, please refrain from visiting:
□ Have/have had a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius or above
□ Have cold symptoms (fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat, etc.)
□ Have strong fatigue / tiredness (malaise) or dyspnea / shortness of breath (dyspnea)
□ Have received a positive test for new coronavirus
□ Have received instructions from a medical professional to stay home within the last 14 days
□ Have come into close contact with someone diagnosed with new coronavirus
□ Have spent less than 14 days in Japan since visiting a country / region where the government has immigration restrictions
□ Have any concerns about other physical health conditions

SpaceNews

Categories
aerospace Astrocast astronomy Capella Space D-Orbit Exolaunch falcon 9 Hawkeye 360 Iceye Kepler Communications NanoRacks Planet rideshare Spaceflight Inc. spacex Spire Swarm Technologies

SpaceX launches record-setting cluster of smallsats

Transporter-1 launch

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched 143 small satellites for a wide range of customers Jan. 24 on the company’s first dedicated rideshare mission, a service that poses a competitive threat to emerging small launch vehicles.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 10 a.m. Eastern, a launch delayed one day by poor weather. The first stage, making its fifth launch after being previously used for NASA and commercial launches, landed on a droneship off the northern coast of Cuba.

The rocket’s second stage started deploying satellites 59 minutes after liftoff into sun-synchronous orbits, a process that took more than a half-hour to complete. The 143 satellites on what SpaceX called the Transporter-1 mission were the most deployed on a single launch, breaking the record of 104 set by an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission in February 2017.

Transporter-1 is the first dedicated rideshare mission for SpaceX’s overall smallsat rideshare program, which also provides secondary payload opportunities on Starlink and other launches. SpaceX worked directly with satellite operators as well as several rideshare aggregators, including D-Orbit, Exolaunch, Nanoracks and Spaceflight, to fly payloads on the mission. The large number of satellites posed a challenge for U.S. Space Command, which tracks satellites and other objects in orbit.

Planet is the largest single customer in terms of number of satellites launched, with 48 of its Dove cubesats. Of those, 36 were contracted directly with SpaceX with the other 12 through other companies. Swarm launched 36 of its SpaceBee satellites by working with two different payload aggregators.

The diversity of payloads meant that some competitors shared a launch. Iceye launched three of its synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellites on this mission, alongside two SAR satellites from Capella Space and one from Japanese SAR company iQPS. Astrocast launched five satellites to provide internet-of-things services similar to what Swarm is offering, while Kepler launched eight satellites for its constellation that provides internet-of-things and other communications services.

Some other customers of the launch were Spire, which launched eight new cubesats for weather and vessel tracking services; HawkEye 360, which launched three satellites for its commercial signals intelligence service; and NASA, which launched four technology demonstration cubesats. Neither SpaceX nor the aggregators released full manifests of the satellites on the Transporter-1 mission prior to liftoff.

SpaceX also added 10 of its Starlink satellites to the mission. These will be the first to operate in polar orbits, after the Federal Communications Commission granted permission Jan. 8 to use polar orbits for those 10 satellites to test providing broadband internet access at high latitudes.

Transporter-1 could have had even more payloads. Two DARPA satellites that were to fly on the mission to test technologies for its Blackjack program were damaged during payload processing in early January. Momentus delayed plans to launch its first Vigoride tug, carrying several cubesats, to a future SpaceX rideshare mission, citing delays in getting regulatory approvals.

SpaceX announced its rideshare program in August 2019, offering low-cost launch opportunities for smallsats with a mix of dedicated missions and secondary payloads on rideshare missions. It started allowing customers to book launches directly through its website in February 2020.

SpaceX seeks to provide a regular cadence of launches through that program, intended to provide “competitive pricing and increased flight opportunities on board the world’s most advanced and proven launch vehicles,” Andy Tran, host of the SpaceX webcast, said. “If you’re ready to fly during the scheduled launch period, you will fly.”

That rideshare program could pose a threat to small launch vehicles now in service or about to enter service, which can’t provide the same pricing. Those companies have increasingly emphasized responsiveness, including their ability to place payloads into the customer’s preferred orbit and on their preferred schedule.

SpaceNews

Categories
aerospace astronomy falcon 9 Planet Reusability Skybox spacex

Falcon 9 reaches new reusability record during Starlink, SkySat launch

WASHINGTON — SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket Aug. 18 on a mission that reused the same first-stage booster for a sixth time, setting a record for Falcon 9 booster reuse.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 10:31 a.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying 58 small broadband satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, and three SkySat optical imaging satellites for Planet. 

Planet’s SkySats separated from the rocket about 13 minutes after liftoff, followed by the Starlink satellites 46 minutes after liftoff. The first-stage booster landed on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The launch marks the first time SpaceX has flown the same first-stage booster six times. The company first used this particular first stage in September 2018 to launch the Telstar-18 Vantage satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. The booster flew again in January 2019, carrying 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites to low Earth orbit, and later conducted three separate Starlink launches, with the most recent occurring in June 2020. 

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has described the current Falcon 9 first-stage booster as capable of at least 10 flights, with refurbishment possibly extending the number of flights to 100. The company builds a new upper stage for each launch. 

SpaceX has tested the limits of Falcon 9 reuse through Starlink missions, having launched its own Starlink satellites on the first-ever fourth flight and fifth flight of a rocket booster. The company’s Aug. 18 launch also featured previously flown payload fairing halves that have since been recovered again — one by the boat “Ms. Tree,” and the other via a soft water landing. 

SpaceX has now launched 653 Starlink satellites, including two prototypes. It is not clear, however, how many Starlink satellites launched so far will provide service when SpaceX starts offering internet connections late this year. 

SpaceX told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission June 23 that nine Starlink satellites had “suffered diminished maneuvering capability at an altitude above injection,” and that another five had already been deorbited “either to test the de-orbit process or because the satellite was not performing optimally.”

Musk also tweeted in April that the company was deorbiting its two TinTin prototype satellites. 

SpaceX has submitted paperwork for a constellation of up to 42,000 Starlink satellites, but has described the constellation as “economically viable” at around 1,000 satellites. 

While Starlink will need many more satellites before providing service, the launch completed Planet’s constellation of 21 SkySats. 

The SkySat satellites provide imagery at 50 centimeter resolution, complementing Planet’s larger fleet of Dove cubesats that provide 3-5 meter resolution imagery. 

Mike Safyan, Planet vice president of launch, said SpaceX’s rideshare program was better for Planet than relying on vehicles designed specifically for smallsats. 

“[W]e were able to get these satellites launched much faster compared to a dedicated launch,” he wrote in an Aug. 14 blog post. 

Planet launched its last six SkySats in groups of three on Falcon 9 launches. Splitting the satellites into two groups helps speed their service start by shortening the time needed for orbital plane shifts with onboard propulsion, “all of which results in Planet’s customers benefiting from these enhanced products much sooner,” Safyan said.

SpaceNews

Categories
aerospace astronomy Broadband Commercial Space Complex 40 Drone Ship Earth observation falcon 9 Launch Maxar Mike Safyan Mission Reports News Planet Reusability SkySat SkySat 16 SkySat 17 SkySat 18 spacex starlink Starlink 8 Static Fire Telecom X Home Page Highlight

Starlink satellite deployments continue with successful Falcon 9 launch

A Falcon 9 rocket streaked into space just before sunrise Saturday from Cape Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX

Breaking a SpaceX record for the shortest span between two missions from the same launch pad, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Saturday from Cape Canaveral carrying 58 more Starlink broadband satellites three Earth-imaging spacecraft for Planet.

The Falcon 9 rocket roared into space from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:21:18 a.m. EDT (0921:18 GMT), heading to the northeast as it ascended into sunlight, creating a twilight spectacle visible for hundreds of miles.

SpaceX’s previous Falcon 9 launch took off from the same location less than 10 days before, the fastest turnaround between Falcon 9 flights from the same launch pad in the company’s history.

It was the third Falcon 9 launch in two weeks, and SpaceX has two more Falcon 9 rocket flights scheduled before the end of June.

Those missions are currently scheduled for launch from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on June 22 — with another batch of Starlink satellites — and on June 30 from pad 40 again with a U.S. Space Force GPS navigation satellite.

After shutting down its nine main engines two-and-a-half minutes into the mission Saturday, the Falcon 9’s first stage dropped away and flipped around to fly tail first and descend to a propulsive landing on SpaceX’s drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean around 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral.

The Falcon 9’s second stage engine ignited to accelerate the 58 Starlink satellites and three SkySats into an orbit with an average altitude of nearly 200 miles (300 kilometers). The rocket’s nose cone also jettisoned to parachute into the Atlantic, where two other SpaceX recovery ships retrieved the two-piece fairing for return to Port Canaveral.

The first stage booster and fairing flown on Saturday’s mission were both recovered and reused from previous Falcon 9 missions.

Saturday’s launch was the first to fly secondary payloads to ride to orbit on SpaceX’s commercial rideshare service, which the company announced last year.

Planet, headquartered in San Francisco, was the first company to publicly confirm plans to utilize the rideshare launch service.

The launch of three Planet SkySat spacecraft Saturday will be followed by another Falcon 9/Starlink mission in July carrying Planet’s final three SkySats, capping off the deployment of the company’s fleet of 21 commercial high-resolution Earth observation satellites.

Mike Safyan, Planet’s vice president of launch, said SpaceX’s small satellite rideshare service was “a very attractive offering” to launch the company’s last six SkySat satellites.

SpaceX’s 87th Falcon 9 rocket mission carried 58 Starlink satellites and three of Planet’s Earth-imaging SkySats into orbit. Credit: SpaceX

While Safyan would not disclose what Planet paid SpaceX to launch the six SkySats, SpaceX has published pricing for rideshare launch services on its website. The company lists a price as low as $1 million for a 440-pound payload on a rideshare to a polar sun-synchronous orbit.

“That’s incredibly competitive pricing,” Safyan said. “Coupled with the fact that the Falcon 9 is one of the world’s most reliable and well-flown vehicles out there, and they’re going to a variety of orbits very regularly, makes it a very attractive offering.”

The cost to purchase the entire capacity of an Electron rocket mission from Rocket Lab is around $5.7 million. Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher can carry up to 496 pounds (225 kilograms) to a low-altitude orbit, or 330 pounds (150 kilograms) to a higher sun-synchronous orbit.

Safyan said SpaceX provided Planet with parameters to integrate the SkySats on top of a flat-packed stack of Starlink satellites.

“SpaceX gave us the interface pattern, and then we designed a custom adapter plate in-house,” Safyan said. “We put together this adapter plate that would allow for three SkySats to fit onto that mounting. The SkySats sit at the top of the stack, and they get deployed as the first satellite deployment event, and Starlinks will follow thereafter.”

With the addition of three SkySats on top of the Starlink stack, SpaceX is only launching 58 Starlink platforms on Saturday’s mission, down from the typical number of 60 per launch.

The top-mounted SkySats separated from the rocket first Saturday after reaching a preliminary orbit inclined 53 degrees to the equator, deploying one-at-a-time at 30-second intervals beginning around-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.

Then the Falcon 9’s upper stage reoriented for the deployment of the 58 Starlink satellites, which separated from the rocket in one piece after the release of retention rods holding the flat-packed spacecraft onto the rocket.

Once the separation was initiated, the Starlink satellites — each weighing about a quarter-ton — were expected to slowly fly apart from each other as they prepare to unfurl solar arrays and activate their krypton ion drives.

The Starlink deployment occurred at T+plus 26 minutes when the Falcon 9 was flying outside the range of ground stations. SpaceX confirmed the separation sequence was initiated once the rocket flew over a tracking antenna at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Saturday’s flight was also the first Falcon 9 launch to go ahead without a pre-flight test-firing of its nine Merlin first stage engines.

SpaceX was the only launch operator to perform static fire tests before every mission. Other companies, such as United Launch Alliance, conduct fueling rehearsals ahead of some missions, but most launch providers fuel their rockets for the first time on launch day.

It’s not clear whether SpaceX will perform static fire tests before future missions, or whether the company might only test-fire rockets making their first launch, or in preparation for missions with external customers, such as NASA or the U.S. military.

SpaceX is both the launch provider and the customer for a Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites. With 87 Falcon 9 flights in the books, the rocket is no longer a newly-designed launch vehicle. The Falcon 9 has logged more missions than any other U.S. launcher currently in service.

Three of Planet’s SkySat Earth-imaging satellites were mounted on top of 58 SpaceX Starlink Internet satellites for Saturday’s launch. Credit: Planet / SpaceX

With the Starlink satellites successfully placed in orbit, their krypton propulsion systems will raise the spacecraft’s orbits to an operating altitude of 341 miles, or 550 kilometers, while SpaceX ground teams perform checkouts of each spacecraft.

With Saturday’s launch, SpaceX has launched 538 Starlink satellites since May 2019, extending the company’s record as the owner of the largest fleet of commercial satellites. Planet operates between 100 and 150 satellites, making it the owner of the second-largest constellation of commercial satellites.

Continuing its rapid launch pace, SpaceX aims to launch around 1,000 more Starlink satellites later this year and next year to begin offering worldwide Internet service.

Thousands more Starlink spacecraft could launch in the coming years to meet global demand, according to SpaceX.

SpaceX recently started soliciting information from prospective Starlink customers. Those who sign up can receive email updates on the Starlink network, those who submitted their zip codes will be “notified via email if beta testing opportunities become available in your area,” SpaceX said.

“Starlink is designed to deliver high-speed broadband Internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,” SpaceX said. “Private beta testing is expected to begin later this summer, followed by public beta testing, starting with higher latitudes.”

Planet’s fleet includes more than 100 medium-resolution Dove and SuperDove CubeSats — each the size of a toaster oven — and 15 larger SkySats with sharper vision.

Built by Maxar, each of the SkySat satellites weighs around 242 pounds (110 kilograms) at launch. The SkySats are about the side of a mini-refrigerator.

The first 15 SkySat satellites launched into polar sun-synchronous orbits and fly in in north-south paths around Earth. Sun-synchronous orbits are popular for remote sensing and environmental satellites because they allow regular imaging of the Earth’s surface with the sun at the same angle.

Around half of the SkySats fly in orbits timed to fly overhead in the morning, and the other half soar over imaging targets in the afternoon, providing coverage of certain parts of the globe twice per day.

The six remaining SkySats are the last of a block of spacecraft ordered from Maxar, formerly known as SSL, by Skybox Imaging. Skybox was acquired by Google and renamed Terra Bella in 2014, then Planet acquired Terra Bella and the SkySat assets in 2017.

The three SkySat satellites launching Saturday, and another three set to launch on a following Starlink mission in July, will fly at a lower-inclination orbit inclined 53 degrees to the equator. Planet says the new satellites “will offer more targeted coverage and raw image capacity in key geographic regions.”

Safyan told Spaceflight Now the SkySats will use their own propulsion to maneuver from the Starlink injection orbit to an operating altitude of around 250 miles (400 kilometers).

At that altitude, the SkySats will be able to produce images of Earth at a resolution of less than 20 inches, or 50 centimeters. Planet announced it has also lowered the orbits of its SkySats already in space to allow the collection imagery of the same quality.

The first 15 SkySats have launched on a range of rockets, riding a Ukrainian-Russian Dnepr booster in 2013, a Russian Soyuz launcher in 2014, an Indian PSLV and a European Vega rocket in 2016, Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur-C rocket in 2017, and a Falcon 9 mission in 2018.

In addition to selling excess room on Starlink missions, SpaceX is planning as many as three dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare launches per year to sun-synchronous orbit. The first of the company’s dedicated rideshare missions is scheduled for December from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The rideshare launches are similar to a sun-synchronous orbit multi-satellite launch from Vandenberg on a Falcon 9 rocket in December 2018. But that mission was managed by Spaceflight, a rideshare launch broker based in Seattle, which purchased the entire capacity of a Falcon 9 rocket and sold slots to commercial and government customers.

Now SpaceX itself is putting together rideshare launches, selling slots directly to satellite operators and brokers that then distribute mass and volume allotments to their customers.

Starlink launches take up the majority of the Falcon 9 rocket’s launch manifest this year. SpaceX has also sold capacity on the next Starlink launch, set for June 22, for two Earth-imaging satellites owned by BlackSky.

“SpaceX had a lot of different orbits we could choose from,” Safyan said. “That’s one of the advantages of going with a SpaceX rideshare because with other launch providers, they may be going to the orbit that you’re looking for, but with only one or two missions every now and again.

“But SpaceX is launching so frequently that if you’re looking for mid-inclination, you could go on a Starlink,” Safyan said. “If you’re looking for sun-synchronous, they have other rideshare opportunities. Other orbits are being offered as well. So it’s the number and frequency of opportunities that really makes a difference.”

The launch contract between SpaceX and Planet was signed just six months ago, Safyan said.

Artist’s concept of SkySat satellites. Credit: Planet

“We not only recognize that these Starlink launch opportunities were very cost-competitive on a very reliable launch vehicle, and going to the right orbit, but also the timing,” Safyan said. “We were ready to launch, and if we were to go to a dedicated launch service provider, then it could take 12 or 18 months for them to build their launch vehicle from scratch and fit it into their manifest.

“Launch companies typically don’t just have rockets sitting around on inventory that haven’t been assigned,” he said. “So being able to turn this around really quickly was another big advantage, and SpaceX is one of the few launch providers in the world that could do this so quickly.”

Planet could have launched all six of their remaining SkySats clustered together on same Starlink rideshare mission, but the company preferred to put them on two different rockets to be released into different orbital planes. That will help spread out the fleet for broader coverage, Safyan said.

“I think that there has been what appears to be kind of like a culture shift at SpaceX with respect to the smallsat market,” Safyan said. “Previously, I think that they were much more focused on bigger payloads and dedicated launch services, and they preferred to kind of outsource aggregating smaller payloads to other brokers. With their smallsat rideshare announcement, I think that was a turning point for SpaceX where they recognize that this is a real and important market, and that they wanted to be working directly with customers.

“That’s been a really great shift for us because SpaceX works very fast. They work at a very similar pace as we do. So we were able to put together this launch in a very quick timeframe.”

The SkySats are designed for six-year missions, according to Planet.

“That gives us a pretty long runway with respect to what these SkySats will be able to provide,” Safyan said. “We’re looking at the future of high-res at Planet. It’s still too early to talk about the details of that. But we will continue to offer both medium-res and high-res products to our customers.

“One of the promises that Planet always makes to its customers is that our products get better over time,” Safyan said. “We don’t like to rest on our laurels. We really like to listen to the market and understand what are they evolving needs, especially as we grow the customer base.

“It’s not just industries that are traditional users of remote sensing, like government agencies and agriculture,” he said. “There are newer markets that are being opened up in finance and insurance, so better understanding those market needs as well helps us inform how we develop the product going forward. Because we’re vertically-integrated, that gives us a really big advantage of being able to take customer feedback and actually incorporate that into satellite design and operations.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Categories
aerospace astronomy Cape Canaveral constellation droneship internet Launch Of Course I Still Love You Planet rideshare rocket rocket landing satellite SkySat slc-40 smallsat spacex starlink

SpaceX is targeting Saturday, June 13 at 5:21 a.m. EDT, 9:21…



SpaceX is targeting Saturday, June 13 at 5:21 a.m. EDT, 9:21 UTC, for launch of its ninth Starlink mission, which will include 58 Starlink satellites and three of Planet’s SkySats. Falcon 9 will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and a backup opportunity is available on Sunday, June 14 at 4:59 a.m. EDT, 8:59 UTC. This mission marks SpaceX’s first SmallSat Rideshare Program launch. 

Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported Dragon’s 19th and 20th resupply missions to the International Space Station. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously flew on the JCSAT-18/Kacific1 mission, and the other half previously flew on SpaceX’s third Starlink mission.

Categories
aerospace astronomy Broadband Commercial Space Complex 40 Drone Ship Earth observation falcon 9 Launch Maxar Mike Safyan Mission Reports Mission Status Center News Planet Reusability SkySat SkySat 16 SkySat 17 SkySat 18 spacex starlink Starlink 8 Static Fire Telecom X Sidebar

Live coverage: Falcon 9 rocket ready for predawn launch Saturday

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mission will launch SpaceX’s ninth batch of Starlink broadband satellites. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter

Categories
aerospace astronomy Broadband Commercial Space Complex 40 Drone Ship Earth observation falcon 9 Launch Maxar Mike Safyan Mission Reports News Planet Reusability SkySat SkySat 16 SkySat 17 SkySat 18 spacex starlink Starlink 8 Static Fire Telecom X Home Page Highlight

Hitching a ride with SpaceX, Planet poised to complete SkySat fleet

Three of Planet’s SkySat Earth-imaging satellites are mounted on top of 58 SpaceX Starlink Internet satellites for launch Saturday. Credit: Planet / SpaceX

Three of Planet’s SkySat Earth-imaging satellites are mounted on top of 58 of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband satellites for launch Saturday from Cape Canaveral on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, the first secondary payloads to ride to orbit on SpaceX’s commercial rideshare service.

The launch of three Planet SkySat spacecraft Saturday will be followed by another Falcon 9/Starlink mission in July carrying Planet’s final three SkySats, capping off the deployment of the company’s fleet of 21 commercial high-resolution Earth observation satellites.

Mike Safyan, Planet’s vice president of launch, said SpaceX’s small satellite rideshare service, which the launch provider announced last year, was “a very attractive offering” to launch the company’s last six SkySat satellites.

While Safyan would not disclose what Planet paid SpaceX to launch the six SkySats, SpaceX has published pricing for rideshare launch services on its website. The company lists a price as low as $1 million for a 440-pound payload on a rideshare to a polar sun-synchronous orbit.

“That’s incredibly competitive pricing,” Safyan said. “Coupled with the fact that the Falcon 9 is one of the world’s most reliable and well-flown vehicles out there, and they’re going to a variety of orbits very regularly, makes it a very attractive offering.”

The cost to purchase the entire capacity of an Electron rocket mission from Rocket Lab is around $5.7 million. Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher can carry up to 496 pounds (225 kilograms) to a low-altitude orbit, or 330 pounds (150 kilograms) to a higher sun-synchronous orbit.

Safyan said SpaceX provided Planet with parameters to integrate the SkySats on top of a flat-packed stack of Starlink satellites.

Planet, headquartered in San Francisco, dispatched a small team to Cape Canaveral to prepare the three SkySats for launch.

“We were able to do it with a skeleton crew,” Safyan said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “We were trying to minimize the number of people that needed to travel given the pandemic conditions.”

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket with the SkySat and Starlink satellites is set for 5:21:18 a.m. EDT (0921:18 GMT) from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The launch comes less than 10 days after the previous Falcon 9 mission lifted off from pad 40, the shortest span between flights from the same launch pad in SpaceX’s history.

It’s also the first Falcon 9 launch to go ahead without a pre-flight test-firing of its nine Merlin first stage engines. Although SpaceX has not responded to questions on the matter, the launch team Friday was preparing for an overnight countdown ahead of Saturday’s predawn launch.

SpaceX was the only launch operator to perform static fire tests before every mission. Other companies, such as United Launch Alliance, conduct fueling rehearsals ahead of some missions, but most launch providers fuel their rockets for the first time on launch day.

The first stage booster flying on Saturday’s Falcon 9 flight previously launched and landed on two missions in December and March, each carrying a Dragon cargo capsule into space on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The booster is flying for a third time Saturday.

It’s not clear whether SpaceX will perform static fire tests before future missions, or whether the company might only test-fire rockets making their first launch, or in preparation for missions with external customers, such as NASA or the U.S. military.

SpaceX is both the launch provider and the customer for a Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites. With 86 Falcon 9 flights in the books, the rocket is no longer a newly-designed launch vehicle. The Falcon 9 has logged more missions than any other U.S. launcher currently in service.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands on pad 40. Credit: SpaceX

In an interview with Spaceflight Now, Safyan said Planet was comfortable with launching on the Falcon 9 with or without a static fire test.

“SpaceX gave us the interface pattern, and then we designed a custom adapter plate in-house,” Safyan said. “We put together this adapter plate that would allow for three SkySats to fit onto that mounting. The SkySats sit at the top of the stack, and they get deployed as the first satellite deployment event, and Starlinks will follow thereafter.”

With the addition of three SkySats on top of the Starlink stack, SpaceX is only launching 58 Starlink platforms on Saturday’s mission, down from the typical number of 60 per launch.

Like all Starlink launches to date, the Falcon 9 rocket will blast off and head northeast from Cape Canaveral powered by 1.7 million pounds of thrust from nine Merlin 1D main engines.

Fueled by kerosene, the nine Merlin engines will burn for two-and-a-half minutes before shutting down, allowing the Falcon 9’s first stage to drop away and head for landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” parked in the Atlantic Ocean nearly 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral.

The second stage’s Merlin Vacuum engine will ignite at T+plus 2 minutes, 43 seconds. Around 30 seconds later, the Falcon 9’s clamshell-like payload fairing will jettison in two halves to drop into the Atlantic Ocean.

The two halves of the fairing launching Saturday are also reused from previous missions.

SpaceX’s two fairing recovery vessels — named Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief — are stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, presumably to attempt recovery of the payload shroud halves again.

Landing of the first stage booster on SpaceX’s drone ship is scheduled nearly nine minutes after liftoff, followed moments later by shutdown of the Falcon 9’s upper stage engine after reaching an elliptical, or egg-shaped, orbit ranging between 132 miles and 228 miles (213-by-367 kilometers) in altitude.

The orbit will be inclined 53 degrees to the equator.

The SkySats will separate from the rocket first, deploying one-at-a-time at 30-second intervals beginning around-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.

Then the Falcon 9’s upper stage will reorient for the deployment of the 58 Starlink satellites, which will separate from the rocket in one piece after the release of retention rods holding the flat-packed spacecraft onto the rocket.

Once the separation is initiated, the Starlink satellites — each weighing about a quarter-ton — will slowly fly apart from each other as they prepare to unfurl solar arrays and activate their krypton ion drives.

The krypton propulsion system will raise the satellites’ orbits to an operating altitude of 341 miles, or 550 kilometers, while SpaceX ground teams perform checkouts of each spacecraft.

With Saturday’s launch, SpaceX will have launched 538 Starlink satellites since May 2019, extending the company’s record as the owner of the largest fleet of commercial satellites.

SpaceX is on a rapid-fire launch pace, following the launch of the previous batch of Starlink satellites June 3, and another Falcon 9/Starlink mission scheduled for June 22.

SpaceX aims to launch around 1,000 more Starlink satellites later this year and next year to begin offering worldwide Internet service. Initial beta testing of the Starlink network could begin later this year, beginning in higher latitude regions like Canada and the northern United States.

Thousands more Starlink spacecraft could launch in the coming years to meet global demand, according to SpaceX.

Artist’s concept of SkySat satellites. Credit: Planet

Planet is the owner of the world’s second-largest satellite constellation, with between 100 and 150 spacecraft currently in operation. That fleet includes more than 100 medium-resolution Dove and SuperDove CubeSats — each the size of a toaster oven — and 15 larger SkySats with sharper vision.

Built by Maxar, each of the SkySat satellites weighs around 242 pounds (110 kilograms) at launch. The SkySats are about the side of a mini-refrigerator.

The first 15 SkySat satellites launched into polar sun-synchronous orbits and fly in in north-south paths around Earth. Sun-synchronous orbits are popular for remote sensing and environmental satellites because they allow regular imaging of the Earth’s surface with the sun at the same angle.

Around half of the SkySats fly in orbits timed to fly overhead in the morning, and the other half soar over imaging targets in the afternoon, providing coverage of certain parts of the globe twice per day.

The six remaining SkySats are the last of a block of spacecraft ordered from Maxar, formerly known as SSL, by Skybox Imaging. Skybox was acquired by Google and renamed Terra Bella in 2014, then Planet acquired Terra Bella and the SkySat assets in 2017.

The three SkySat satellites launching Saturday, and another three set to launch on a following Starlink mission in July, will fly at a lower-inclination orbit inclined 53 degrees to the equator. Planet says the new satellites “will offer more targeted coverage and raw image capacity in key geographic regions.”

Safyan told Spaceflight Now the SkySats will use their own propulsion to maneuver from the Starlink injection orbit to an operating altitude of around 250 miles (400 kilometers).

At that altitude, the SkySats will be able to produce images of Earth at a resolution of less than 20 inches, or 50 centimeters. Planet announced it has also lowered the orbits of its SkySats already in space to allow the collection imagery of the same quality.

The first 15 SkySats have launched on a range of rockets, riding a Ukrainian-Russian Dnepr booster in 2013, a Russian Soyuz launcher in 2014, an Indian PSLV and a European Vega rocket in 2016, Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur-C rocket in 2017, and a Falcon 9 mission in 2018.

In addition to selling excess room on Starlink missions, SpaceX is planning as many as three dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare launches per year to sun-synchronous orbit. The first of the company’s dedicated rideshare missions is scheduled for December from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The rideshare launches are similar to a sun-synchronous orbit multi-satellite launch from Vandenberg on a Falcon 9 rocket in December 2018. But that mission was managed by Spaceflight, a rideshare launch broker based in Seattle, which purchased the entire capacity of a Falcon 9 rocket and sold slots to commercial and government customers.

Now SpaceX itself is putting together rideshare launches, selling slots directly to satellite operators and brokers that then distribute mass and volume allotments to their customers.

Starlink launches take up the majority of the Falcon 9 rocket’s launch manifest this year. SpaceX has also sold capacity on the next Starlink launch, set for June 22, for two Earth-imaging satellites owned by BlackSky.

“SpaceX had a lot of different orbits we could choose from,” Safyan said. “That’s one of the advantages of going with a SpaceX rideshare because with other launch providers, they may be going to the orbit that you’re looking for, but with only one or two missions every now and again.

“But SpaceX is launching so frequently that if you’re looking for mid-inclination, you could go on a Starlink,” Safyan said. “If you’re looking for sun-synchronous, they have other rideshare opportunities. Other orbits are being offered as well. So it’s the number and frequency of opportunities that really makes a difference.”

The launch contract between SpaceX and Planet was signed just six months ago, Safyan said.

“We not only recognize that these Starlink launch opportunities were very cost-competitive on a very reliable launch vehicle, and going to the right orbit, but also the timing,” Safyan said. “We were ready to launch, and if we were to go to a dedicated launch service provider, then it could take 12 or 18 months for them to build their launch vehicle from scratch and fit it into their manifest.

“Launch companies typically don’t just have rockets sitting around on inventory that haven’t been assigned,” he said. “So being able to turn this around really quickly was another big advantage, and SpaceX is one of the few launch providers in the world that could do this so quickly.”

Planet could have launched all six of their remaining SkySats clustered together on same Starlink rideshare mission, but the company preferred to put them on two different rockets to be released into different orbital planes. That will help spread out the fleet for broader coverage, Safyan said.

“I think that there has been what appears to be kind of like a culture shirt at SpaceX with respect to the smallsat market,” Safyan said. “Previously, I think that they were much more focused on bigger payloads and dedicated launch services, and they preferred to kind of outsource aggregating smaller payloads to other brokers. With their smallsat rideshare announcement, I think that was a turning point for SpaceX where they recognize that this is a real and important market, and that they wanted to be working directly with customers.

“That’s been a really great shift for us because SpaceX works very fast. They work at a very similar pace as we do. So we were able to put together this launch in a very quick timeframe.”

The SkySats are designed for six-year missions, according to Planet.

“That gives us a pretty long runway with respect to what these SkySats will be able to provide,” Safyan said. “We’re looking at the future of high-res at Planet. It’s still too early to talk about the details of that. But we will continue to offer both medium-res and high-res products to our customers.

“One of the promises that Planet always makes to its customers is that our products get better over time,” Safyan said. “We don’t like to rest on our laurels. We really like to listen to the market and understand what are they evolving needs, especially as we grow the customer base.

“It’s not just industries that are traditional users of remote sensing, like government agencies and agriculture,” he said. “There are newer markets that are being opened up in finance and insurance, so better understanding those market needs as well helps us inform how we develop the product going forward. Because we’re vertically-integrated, that gives us a really big advantage of being able to take customer feedback and actually incorporate that into satellite design and operations.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Categories
aerospace astronomy Earth observation Planet rideshare spacex

Planet unveils tasking and API for expanding SkySat fleet

SAN FRANCISCO – Planet unveiled a cloud-based dashboard and API June 9 to allow customers to task the firm’s growing SkySat constellation.

It was the latest step in Planet’s campaign to enhance its SkySat product line. Over the last six months, the company has lowered the altitude of 15 SkySats in orbit to improve resolution and purchased rides for six additional SkySats on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to expand the constellation and improve revisit rates.

All the changes are designed to give government and commercial customers easy access to high-resolution imagery of locations at different times throughout the day and “a better sense of activity on the ground,” Jim Thomason, Planet vice president of imagery products, told SpaceNews.

Planet created “a new user interface that allows customers to task SkySat imagery in an efficient, automated way” because customers expressed a desire to have simpler and faster workflows,” the company said in a June 9 blog post. “Instead of spending precious time going back and forth with a human [representative], with the tasking dashboard and API, customers can autonomously submit, modify and cancel SkySat imagery requests. This enables visibility into the end-to-end experience, from order to fulfillment, so expectations can be managed with analysts and teams.”

Planet is well-known for capturing daily global imagery of Earth’s landmass with its Dove cubesat constellation. Many of Planet’s recent announcements have focused on the SkySat constellation the San Francisco company acquired in 2017 from Google.

SkySats were designed to offer 72-centimeter-per-pixel imagery. In response to demand for higher resolution, Planet lowered SkySat altitudes instead of redesigning satellites.

By lowering SkySats from an altitude of 575 kilometers to 450 kilometers, Planet improved the resolution of orthorectified imagery from 80 centimeters to 50 centimeters per pixel.

“This improvement enables customers to get a more precise view of changing conditions on the ground and adds more granular context to decision-making,” Planet said in the blog. “This is particularly important for commercial and government mapping use cases, where seeing smaller features like road surface markings are key.”

Mike Safyan, Planet vice president of launch, said the unconventional decision to lower SkySats stemmed from “a casual conversation during a meeting.” After the meeting, Planet engineers evaluated the impact on satellite lifetimes, propellant budgets and whether the move could be made without interrupting customer service.

“We don’t fully throw the aerospace textbook out the window, but we question a lot of accepted norms and practices to see if there are ways we can push the limits,” Safyan told SpaceNews.

Planet is preparing to expand the SkySat constellation with three SkySats scheduled to launch in June on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket alongside Starlink broadband satellites. Three additional SkySats are slated to share the ride to orbit with Starlink satellites about a month later. The six new SkySats are destined for mid-inclination orbits of 53 degrees.

With 21 SkySats in sun-synchronous and mid-inclination orbits, Planet expects to offer customers an average of seven daily opportunities to view locations on the ground and as many as 12 chances to obtain imagery of sites near 53 degrees latitude, according to the June 9 blog.

The June SkySat launch comes about six months after Planet and SpaceX signed the launch contract. Safyan attributes the speed to the fact that Planet has flown with SpaceX before, sending two SkySats on a dedicated rideshare mission in 2018.

“By dovetailing with their launch schedule, we readied the satellites, built a new rocket interface, designed a new commissioning schedule (due to the low orbit insertion of these unique launches) and delivered them for launch, all within six months,” according to the June 9 blog.

SpaceNews.com

Categories
aerospace astronomy Planet rideshare spacex

SpaceX rideshare program putting downward pressure on prices

WASHINGTON — SpaceX for years has been a driving force in lowering the cost of launching large satellites to orbit. The rideshare program the company started in August is now also putting downward pressure on the cost of launching small satellites.

“SpaceX is offering pricing that previously wasn’t really seen,” said Mike Safyan, vice president of launch at Planet, an Earth imaging company with more than 150 small satellites in orbit.

Planet announced last week that it will launch six SkySat satellites as rideshare payloads on SpaceX rockets scheduled to launch Starlink broadband satellites. Two sets of three SkySats will ride in separate Starlink missions to low Earth orbit

SpaceX advertises a base price of $1 million for launching up to 200 kilograms and $5,000 extra per kilogram.

The rideshare program is “incredibly competitive,” Safyan told SpaceNews. He called it “one of the more significant programs for the smallsat industry especially because of the pricing, the reliability and the number of orbits.”

Since SpaceX started offering this service there has been “more pressure on other launch providers to offer more competitive pricing,” he said. “We are seeing launch providers starting to get more creative.”

Planet is adding six new SkySats to its existing constellation of 15 to provide mid-latitude coverage. The 53 degree inclination of the Starlink orbit “matches very well with where we wanted to put these SkySats,” Safyan said.

After Falcon 9 drops off the SkySats and the Starlink satellites, Planet’s spacecraft will use their on-board propulsion to boost themselves up to their operational orbit of about 400 kilometers above Earth.

Safyan said the three SkySats in each launch will ride on top of the Starlink satellite stack. The company developed a customized adapter.

Taking advantage of rideshare options requires tradeoffs, said Safyan. “You don’t control the orbit or the schedule” but the cost savings are significant. It’s the equivalent of taking the bus versus an Uber. If there are no buses going to the desired orbit, one option is to pay a higher price for a dedicated launch. Another is to hire space tugs that are now being offered as a service.

“That can get you that last mile while still taking advantage of the bigger rideshare rockets,” said Safyan. “I think we’ll see more of that as years go on.”

SpaceNews.com

Categories
aerospace astronomy Planet spacex starlink

Planet’s next six satellites will launch on upcoming SpaceX Starlink missions

SkySats in orbit

WASHINGTON — Planet announced that its next six SkySat satellites will fly to low Earth orbit on SpaceX Starlink missions scheduled later this summer.

The six SkySats will be evenly split across two launches on SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Planet said May 13 in a news release. Planet’s spacecraft will be rideshare payloads on the Starlink launches.

The first three — SkySats 16-18 — will launch on SpaceX’s ninth Starlink mission expected to launch in June. The next three — SkySats 19-21 — will launch later this summer. Both missions will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The deployment of six more SkySats would add coverage to Planet’s fleet of 15 currently in operation. These remote sensing satellites collect high-resolution imagery, a capability that the company needs to compete in the national security market. With its new satellites in a lower altitude, Planet will be able to offer 50-centimeter-resolution imagery from its SkySat constellation, an improvement from the 72-centimeter imagery provided by older satellites.

SkySats 1-15 operate in sun synchronous orbits. SkySats 16-21 will operate at a “mid-inclination” orbit of 53 degrees, complementing the sun synchronous fleet, the company said. ‘They will offer more targeted coverage, rapid revisits and raw image capacity in key geographic regions.”

SpaceNews.com