January 13th at 10:25 AM Est from SLC-40 at CCSFS
Just one week after the last SpaceX launch which happened to be the first orbital launch of the year the company has launched another Falcon 9, this time with dozens of small satellites for a variety of customers in there rideshare program. This launch, Transporter-3 is the third dedicated rideshare mission which is the world’s most cost-effective way to get into orbit.
SpaceX’s Rideshare program has been hugely successful so far with the first two launches bringing about 220 satellites into orbit. Customers can purchase a ride through SpaceX to pay one-million dollars to launch up to 200kg, or 44lbs to a sun-synchronous LEO (low Earth orbit). They do however lose out on the white-glove, hands on customer service with a tailored orbit insertion offered by a dedicated launch. There are two other main companies that offer this service but are extremely expensive when compared to the SpaceX Rideshare program. Estimations speculate that there will be between 100 to 120 satellites onboard Falcon 9 B1058 as it lifts off for this mission.
We know a number of these payloads include systems for Kepler, Exolaunch, Nanoracks, Guardian, Satellogic, Spaceflight, Capella satellites, and Super Dove. It’s also safe to assume there were a few Starlink satellites onboard as there have been the last two Transporter missions. There was forty-four SuperDove satellites launched today, as pot of Planet’s SkySat constellation. The SuperDove is an upgraded version of the Dove satellite, increasing the resolution currently offered by the constellation. This upgraded camera onboard the satellites are more color accurate, which will produce better, sharper images. They will provide more accurate surface reflection values and will also include additional bands. These will allow them to better monitor agriculture, and lead to new machine learning applications.
Another interesting payload launched today is the “Sequoia”, a 100kg (220lb) satellite to be a part of the SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) constellation. Sequoia has the unique capability to detect sub .5-meter changes in Earth’s surface and will aid in disaster relief, as well as mapping areas for agriculture and infrastructure advancement. It also has the ability to deliver high contrast low noise, sub .5-meter imagery to the public, along with having a high downlink rate of 1.2 Gbps to allow faster image downloads including real time tasking abilities through Immarsat.
You may have caught earlier where I stated Falcon 9 B1058, that’s right this is Bob & Doug’s ride to the ISS (International Space Station), and if you’ve kept track (or read my last article) you’ll know this is its tenth flight. Today marks only the third time SpaceX has launched a booster ten times, but as my last article stated this seems to them a steppingstone, not a milestone. The previous two boosters to launch ten times only did so with Starlink satellites onboard, Starlink of course being owned by SpaceX therefore having no risk to any paying customer. They also both landed on a drone ship far offshore where a crash landing would not damage anything more than the drone ship itself, and perhaps some sea life near the surface at the time. This launch also comes as the second of three polar launches this month, meaning it flew a trajectory towards the South, lifting off and completing a dogleg maneuver to keep it far enough away from Florida’s coastline.
Now B1058 as flown astronauts, satellites, cargo to the space station, and a whole lot of Starlinks, it even flew the first Transporter mission, but one thing it hasn’t done is land back onshore at LZ-1 so today was a real treat as that NASA worm logo touched down so close to our eyes.