Last night, SpaceX launched its eighth Transporter rideshare mission aboard a Falcon 9, deploying 39 spacecraft that hosted 72 payloads from a slew of startups and established companies into orbit.
Transporter launch days always spur a lot of enthusiasm for spaceflight, as many crafts from smaller companies that rely on the lower price tag board the train to space. Now a few years into this program—SpaceX launched Transporter-1 in Jan. 2021—the company is striking a regular launch cadence, providing reliable and comparatively inexpensive rides to orbit.
It was a big night for the companies flying satellites for the very first time.
Otter Pup goes up: Starfish Space, a Seattle-based startup developing spacecraft to dock with, refuel, and otherwise service satellites in orbit, deployed its Otter Pup craft. Otter Pup is the demo version of the planned full-size Otter servicer, and on this mission, it will perform a series of docking maneuvers.
- Otter Pup is manifested aboard Launcher’s Orbiter, which will also play host to the docking tests.
- If successful, the demonstration will represent the first docking between two commercial spacecraft in LEO.
Flying factories: Varda Space Industries’ first demonstration mission also went up on Transporter-8. The El Segundo, CA-based startup is designing microgravity factories to manufacture certain pharmaceuticals and bioprinted products that can’t be built in Earth’s gravity. This first mission will deploy the reentry capsule, and the company will count a success if it can successfully recover the craft when it returns to Earth.
The space industry is keeping a close eye on the Earth’s surface from space, and the passengers on this flight were no exception.
Laser links: Spire deployed three satellites on Transporter-8. Two are RF-sensing sats that came equipped with optical inter-satellite links, which will use lasers to communicate data more quickly and with more accuracy than traditional radio comms. The third satellite is carrying the FOREST-2 thermal imaging payload for OroraTech.
A host of new cameras…also on the imaging front:
- ICEYE expanded its SAR constellation by four satellites
- Orbital Sidekick added the third member of its GHOSt hyperspectral constellation
- Satellogic launched four more NewSat Mark V spacecraft, which collect multispectral and hyperspectral observations
- Satellite Vu deployed its first thermal imaging satellite
The Internet of Things
Several companies are getting in on IoT communications from space via payloads launched last night. Swarm, a SpaceX-owned company, deployed a handful of its Spacebee nanosatellites. OQ Technology, a Luxembourg-based 5G IoT company, launched its Tiger-4 craft to join its constellation. Hello Space, FOSSA, and Innova Space also deployed craft with IoT communications capabilities.
+ Looking for more details? SpaceX posted the full launch, landing, and deployment schedule on its website.
Note: This story originally stated that Otter Pup will perform the first docking between two commercial spacecraft in orbit, not just in LEO. This error has been corrected.