Updated January 7th 8:18 PM with details from ExoLaunch tweet.
SpaceX has been planning dedicated ridesharing launches with their first planned to take place later this month, but it might be going with two fewer payloads. Two of DARPA’s payloads that were planned to launch on the missions are apparently now damaged.
It appears during stacking of the payloads that DARPA’s two satellites for their Blackjack program were accidentally deployed. The two payloads were set to launch with 28 other satellites on SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission later this month.
This is not a great start to SpaceX’s rideshare program, which aims to compete against dedicated launchers like Rocket Lab, Astra, and many others that have joined the scene in the last few years.
What is unclear is what will happen to the launch date of Transporter-1. If SpaceX decides to launch without the DARPA payloads, they would need to change the profile of the flight due to less weight and a now drastically unbalanced payload. Another option is moving up other payloads from future missions or waiting for the repair or replacement of DARPA’s payload.
Originally this is supposed to be the fastest turnaround time for a booster to date at 32, which would crush the previous record of 51 days. We await more details from SpaceX if this mishap was caused by them or a third party and if the current launch date is expected to hold.
Originally this article stated ExoLaunch was in charge of integrating the payloads and deploying which was incorrect. While ExoLaunch is a customer on this flight their deployer was not involved in any accidents and 100% ready for launch. The ridesharing payloads are being attached to a Sherpa-FX transfer vehicle built by Spaceflight Inc.