SpaceX plans to launch its first dedicated ridesharing mission in January called Transporter-1. ExoLaunch will be providing integration and dispensing services for their new EXOport cubesats.
The 30 cubesats that will be launching on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in January are beginning final checkouts of the dispenser and the cubesats that are within at Cape Canaveral. ExoLaunch will be the ones in charge of mission management, deployment, and satellite integration services. SpaceX will be in charge of launching the EXOport into the correct orbit.
SpaceX’s ridesharing program is directly competing with other small sat launchers like Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, Astra, and Firefly. Those companies launch their customer payloads into purpose design orbits. SpaceX will be able to take advantage of their cost effective flight proven boosters and the ability to spread cost across multiple customers to offer a competitive cost to get micro sats into orbit.
We’ve already seen SpaceX offer ridesharing services on its own Starlink internet satellite missions. This takes a launch that would put the cost fully on SpaceX and offloads part of it to another company willing to have their satellites in a similar orbit as the Starlink constellation.
ExoLaunch has already been involved with several ridesharing missions in the past. Since 2013, ExoLaunch has conducted 11 missions on top of the Russian Soyuz, Rocket Lab Electron, and SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets. January marks the first time using the EXOport dispenser which is designed to integrate easier with the Falcon 9 mounting port and carry more satellites.
“Through our partnership with SpaceX, Exolaunch has become the bridge for multiple European smallsat developers and others from around the world interested to launch on Falcon 9. As the SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program takes off and expands, more organizations will have the opportunity to launch their satellites into orbit though our tailored, flight-proven, and cost-effective launch and deployment solutions.”Jeanne Medvedeva, Vice President of Launch Services at Exolaunch
This is the first of a multi-year contract signed with SpaceX to handle the integration process for their ridesharing program. We expect to see many more launches of these small sats on SpaceX and dedicated launchers in the future as the small sat market continues to expand.