Meet SpaceX’s dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program, designed to greatly lower the cost of access to space for small satellite customers with rideshare flights to Earth orbit.
Small satellites have historically been disadvantaged, having to wait to share a ride to space with a larger payload that might not be going to the exact orbit the small satellite needs for its completely separate mission.
This can be overcome with dedicated launches on small rockets like Electron from Rocket Lab and Launcher One from Virgin Orbit or by large-scale rideshare flights on larger rockets.
Missions like Transporter-3 take advantage of multiple small satellites needing to go to similar orbits. The satellites can then all launch together and customers can pay as little as $1 million for a flight on Falcon 9.
SpaceX is not the only big player hosting the small satellite market. Arianespace from Europe and Roscosmos from Russia both have similar programs.
This mission was to bring a few dozen spacecraft for multiple commercial and government agencies.
A total of 13 spacecraft from 8 organizations were booked through the company Spaceflight. Due to a leak found in Spaceflight's Sherpa Transfer Vehicle, nine of the payloads had to be removed. Only the three remain on this mission with the other satellites to be rebooked on a later launch.
Planet SuperDoves (44x, 3U)
Kepler (4x 6U)
Guardian (6U, Aistech Space, mfr. OrbAstro)
Stork-1, -2 (2x 3U, SatRev)
LabSat (3U, SatRev)
SW1FT (3U, SatRev)
VZLUSAT-2 (3U 3.9kg, SpaceManic, Czech Republic)
Fossa PocketPOD deployers x2 (8 sats)
CShark Pilot-1 2P Earth Observation and IoT Satellite
WISeSAT-1 & 2 (2x 2P, WISeKey)
Three (3) third-party satellites
Alba Orbital Clusters 3 & 4 (16 sats)
MDQube-SAT1 (2P, Innova Space, Argentina)
SATTLA-2 (2P, Ariel University, Israel)
PION-BR1 (1P, PION Labs, Brazil)
DelfiPQ (3P, TU Delft, Netherlands)
Unicorn 2A, 2D, 2E (3x 3P, Alba Orbital)
Hades & EASat-2 (2x 1.5P)
Unicorn 1 (2P)
Carnegie Mellon (1P)
(non-separating) Mars Outpost Tech Demo (111kg)
Sich-2-1 (170kg microsat, Ukraine)
Spaceflight SXRS-6 (2 ports, 3 customer sats)
UMBRA-02 SAR microsat
Capella 7 & 8 (2x 112kg)
ICEYE US (microsat)
EnduroSat 6U CubeSat platform - Hypernova
Photo credit: SpaceX's Transporter1 Rideshare Mission Credit: SpaceX
Rockets used to cost a lot more than they do now.
And the Falcon 9 is almost single-handedly responsible for that dramatic drop in launch prices over the last several years.
A brand new Falcon 9 costs about $62 million. A "flight-proven" -- or re-flown -- Falcon 9 comes in at a price tag of as low as $50.3 million per contracts that have been made public.
The Falcon 9 has greatly reduced launch costs because of its innovative and low-cost production process and by reusing the first stage booster and the rocket's payload fairings.
Each complete fairing costs about $6 million. Recovering the fairings and reusing them saves upwards of $5 million for each re-flight.
Likewise, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage, the booster, is built to fly itself back to the launch site or land itself autonomously on a drone ship in the middle of the ocean for recovery and reuse.
SpaceX hopes the base price of a flight-proven Falcon 9 can drop into the $30 million range -- significantly cheaper than any competitor on the market.
This competition has forced other launch providers to significantly lower their overall launch costs where possible and design new, low cost rockets when lowering the price of existing rockets is not possible.
To date, Falcon 9 has completed 135 launches which now match the same number of Shuttle flights over its 30 years in service.
Overall, Falcon 9 can take the following payloads to the following orbits:
Low Earth Orbit (max): 22,800 kg / 50,265 lb
Geostationary Orbit (max): 8,300 kg / 18,300 lb
Mars (max): 4,020 kg / 8,860 lb
Image: John Kraus for Supercluster
This pad is one of two Florida launch sites leased by SpaceX to prepare and launch its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
Built in the early 1960s, SLC-40 was used to launch 55 Titan III and Titan IV rockets, including the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, between June 18th, 1965 and April 30th, 2005.
In 2007, SpaceX leased the pad and converted it to launch the original version of Falcon 9. It was upgraded again in 2013 to accommodate the larger, reusable Falcon 9 rocket
An accident on September 1st, 2016 destroyed the pad when a Falcon 9 blew up during a fueling and engine test.
The pad was completely rebuilt in just 10 months from mid-February to late-November 2017 and re-entered service with the December 15th, 2017 launch of a cargo Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
Under SpaceX, the pad has seen many significant payloads launched from its grounds, including:
SLC-40 is located on Cape Canaveral, the primary launch center for the United States.
The Cape has four currently-active launch pads for the Atlas V, Delta IV Heavy, Falcon 9, and Minotaur rockets.
Located on Florida’s east coast, Cape Canaveral provides a wide range of access to space for missions to the Space Station, Geostationary Earth Orbit, the Moon, inter-planetary targets, polar trajectories, and more.
The Cape is ideally suited for reaching all locations in space the U.S. needs access to while launching exclusively out over the open Atlantic Ocean so as not to endanger anyone on the ground.
NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which occupies neighboring Merritt Island, and Cape Canaveral are often confused with each other or referred to as a single place. They are in fact separate government installations and launch sites.
Cape Canaveral has hosted numerous history-making rocket launches:
The site was renamed in December of 2020 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in accordance with the new branch of the U.S. military its operations fall under.
Image: John Kraus for Supercluster
Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) is an 86 meter wide circular landing pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and is one of two SpaceX booster landing pads at the Florida spaceport.
Built on former Launch Complex 13, LZ-1 was the site of SpaceX's first successful landing and recovery of a Falcon 9 on the ORBCOMM-2 mission in December 2015. Since then, it has hosted 16 landings.
The landing pad, as well as its twin, LZ-2 located a few dozen meters away, can support both single landings of a Falcon 9 or simultaneous landings of the two Falcon Heavy side boosters.
Photo: Falcon 9 touches down on LZ-1. Credit: Erik Kuna for Supercluster
SLC-40 was built in the early 1960s and hosted its first launch on June 18, 1965. Since then, it has launched nearly 100 missions on the Titan III, Titan IV, and Falcon 9 rockets.
During the Titan rocket era, SLC-40 was used to launch two interplanetary missions: Mars Observer to Mars and Cassini-Huygens to Saturn.
With the Falcon 9, the pad became the first Cape Canaveral site to host a launch to the International Space Station.
The pad is located on historic Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL - the primary launch center for the United States.
The Florida launch site handles the vast majority of U.S. launches every year and has been the starting point of numerous history-making missions for the United States, including: