Dubbed SXRS-3 by Spaceflight, the mission launched January 24 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and delivered Spaceflight’s Sherpa-FX1 to Sun Synchronous Low Earth Orbit (525 km alt), where it deployed payloads for more than 10 organizations.
Spaceflight managed the end-to-end launch experience for 10 cubesats, four microsats and two hosted payloads. Customers onboard the launch represented commercial and government entities from four countries, and included organizations such as HawkEye 360, iQPS, Astrocast, Celestis, and the University of South Florida Institute of Applied Engineering.
Spaceflight’s years of experience providing mission management and integration services gives companies a low-risk option to remanifest to another launch quickly if delays occur — which is rapidly becoming a must-have for smallsat developers. Further, Spaceflight ensures all complex details and requirements, from planning to licensing and up to lift off, are taken care of by an experienced and knowledgeable team to successfully support a mission from beginning to end.
The successful Transporter-1 mission was Spaceflight’s first mission of 2021 as well as the debut flight of the Sherpa-FX vehicle. Building on the success of its SSO-A mission, which delivered 64 spacecraft to orbit from a free-flyer vehicle, Spaceflight pioneered a new Sherpa-NG program in mid-2020.
The Sherpa-NG (next generation) program is a family of ESPA-class space vehicles designed to minimize development timelines while maximizing flight and schedule reliability and mission assurance. Sherpa vehicles provide more orbital diversification, including flexible manifest changes, deployment to multiple altitudes and orbital planes, and rapid launch solutions.
While Sherpa-FX is the first vehicle in the program to launch, two additional versions, Sherpa-LTC and Sherpa-LTE with gas propellant and electrical propulsion respectively, are preparing to launch later this year. The vehicles will all offer quickly configurable systems, multiple deployment capabilities, and tracking and identification abilities. With propulsive systems and in-space transportation capabilities, Sherpa-LTC and Sherpa-LTE vehicles will enable delivery of spacecraft to orbit faster and beyond LEO.
In 2021, Spaceflight is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Over the last 10 years, the company has launched more than 30 missions and 300 satellites. Spaceflight works with a portfolio of global launch vehicles, including Falcon 9, Antares, Electron, Vega, and PSLV, to provide a variety of launch options to its customers.
Finally, the company has executed noteworthy and industry-defining launches over the last 10 years, including its first dedicated rideshare mission, SSO-A, which launched the largest number of satellites from a U.S.-based rocket, and the first-ever rideshare mission to GTO, which carried the first privately funded lunar lander.
This year, Spaceflight plans to launch multiple Sherpa vehicles in addition to many other rideshare missions, totaling more than 10 missions across its global launch vehicle portfolio.
“This successful launch and deployment of spacecraft from the Sherpa-FX vehicle is a significant milestone in delivering flexible launch options for customers,” said Grant Bonin, SVP of business development at Spaceflight. “Our Sherpa vehicles, coupled with the large variety of launches available to us through our global network of partners, enable us to offer a more customized launch experience to smallsat companies and get customer spacecraft on orbit exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there. We’re excited to kick off the year with this SpaceX launch, and are well positioned to execute several more Sherpa missions in the coming months.”
“This is our third launch with Spaceflight and the most critical to date,” added Kjell Karlsen, CFO of Astrocast. “With this launch, our nanosatellite IoT Network goes live. Spaceflight’s reliable rideshare service has made the team a trusted partner as we strive to accomplish our mission. Additionally, the flexibility the company provides has been incredibly valuable as we plan for the many launches required to build an operational constellation.”
“It’s been exciting and gratifying to see the evolution of our Sherpa vehicle from a free-flyer on SSO-A to a strategic and diverse program designed to meet the various needs of smallsat customers,” said Curt Blake, CEO and President of Spaceflight. “Our goal is to make the process of getting to space easier, more efficient and more accessible and the next-gen Sherpa vehicles will enable us to deliver this in a new, innovative manner. After 10 years of business, we have extensive experience, partner relationships, and a variety of learnings that we were able to leverage as we expand our offering to now include in-space transportation services.”
Spaceflight provides launch flexibility to ensure customers’ smallsats get to orbit exactly when and where they want through a combination of long-standing relationships with a diverse portfolio of launch partners, innovative satellite integration capabilities, including flight and ground support hardware, licensing and logistics management, and extensive mission management expertise. Based in Seattle, Spaceflight has successfully launched hundreds of satellites and is a part of the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. portfolio, operating as an independent, U.S.-based company.