Spaceflight Inc. recently secured four, dedicated, Rocket Lab launches on behalf of the company’s customer, BlackSky. Spaceflight will provide the integration and launch services for eight BlackSky smallsats across four dedicated Electron missions throughout 2021 — the agreement also includes options for an additional two dedicated missions on Electron in Q4 2021.
The first of these four dedicated missions is scheduled to launch in May of 2021 from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The mission, called “Running Out of Toes” by Rocket Lab, and “RL-7” by Spaceflight to signify its seventh mission with Rocket Lab, will carry two 55 kilogram class BlackSky smallsats to LEO. The following three dedicated launches under contract will each take two more BlackSky satellites, furthering BlackSky’s goal of launching nine satellites during 2021.
Following the successful deployment of one BlackSky smallsat on Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” rideshare mission (RL-6) on March 22, 2021, the new dedicated launches provide BlackSky additional scheduled launches and orbital control to get its constellation on orbit in an accelerated timeline.
In addition to the upcoming dedicated launches, Spaceflight has managed many rideshare missions for BlackSky over the past years, including ISRO’s PSLV-C43 mission and Spaceflight’s SSO-A dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare mission in 2018, Rocket Lab’s “Make It Rain” and “Look Ma, No Hands” missions in 2019, a SpaceX Starlink rideshare mission in 2020 and, most recently, Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” mission earlier this year.
Spaceflight is preparing several ESPA-class orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) complete with electric and chemical propulsion for missions later this year along with many traditional rideshare and dedicated missions for a total of approximately 10 launches in 2021.
Celebrating 10 years of providing innovative launch services, Spaceflight has launched nearly 350 satellites across 38 missions on eight different launch vehicles, including the Falcon 9, Electron, PSLV, and Vega. The company has orchestrated several industry firsts including the first fully dedicated rideshare with 64 smallsats aboard the historic SSO-A mission and the first-ever rideshare mission to GTO with a lunar lander.
“Organizations may have a strategic business reason to choose a dedicated launch — they need to have spacecraft reach a specific orbit not served by traditional rideshare, or at a specific time when a traditional rideshare option is unavailable,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “Spaceflight arranges a mix of both traditional rideshare and dedicated launches across our large vehicle portfolio to deliver maximum flexibility for organizations and ensure they get to space, exactly when and where they want. Plus, with the purchase of an entire launch vehicle, Spaceflight’s rideshare expertise continues to come into play as we’re often able to help offset the premium price by ‘filling up’ any additional capacity with other smallsats.”
“For our customers, it’s the combination of the launch options that’s powerful — traditional rideshare, dedication launches, or last mile delivery via one of our Sherpa transportation vehicles,” added Grant Bonin, senior vice president of business development for Spaceflight. “We work closely with each customer to find the most cost-effective option to address their mission needs each and every time they need a launch, leveraging our years of experience and long-standing relationships with a wide variety of launch vehicle providers.”