Capella's third-generation synthetic aperture radar satellite, Acadia, is designed to obtain higher-resolution images with an improved signal-to-noise ratio compared with Capella's Whitney satellites. Credit: Capella Space

WASHINGTON — Capella Space will launch two radar imaging satellites on SpaceX rideshare missions after an Electron launch failure disrupted its deployment plans.

Capella announced Dec. 5 that it had arranged to fly two of its Acadia satellites on SpaceX rideshare missions in the first half of 2024. Acadia-4 will fly on the Bandwagon-1 mission as soon as April 2024 while Acadia-5 will launch on Transporter-11 no earlier than June 2024. The Transporter-11 mission was arranged through launch services company Exolaunch.

Capella said in a statement that the arrangements allow for a diversity of orbits for its spacecraft. Bandwagon-1 is the first of a new line of dedicated rideshare missions that SpaceX announced earlier this year that will go to mid-inclination orbits, rather than sun-synchronous orbits accessed by Transporter missions.

“Working with SpaceX to launch our Acadia satellites into a variety of orbits is a huge win for Capella and will enhance our ability to bring greater coverage and higher revisits over key areas of interest across our customer spectrum,” Frank Backes, chief executive of Capella Space, said in a company statement.

Capella Space signed a contract in February with Rocket Lab for four launches of its new line of Acadia satellites. Each launch would carry a single Acadia satellite, with the four launches occurring in “rapid succession” starting in the second half of 2023. Electron rockets launched earlier versions of Capella radar imaging satellites in August 2020 and March 2023.

The first of those four launches took place Aug. 23, successfully placing the first Acadia satellite into orbit. The second, though, failed to reach orbit Sept. 19 when the second stage engine shut down immediately after ignition, resulting in the loss of the satellite.

That failure, Rocket Lab said Nov. 9, was linked to an “unexpected electrical arc” in the power supply of the upper stage, causing a loss of power and engine shutdown. The company said then that it expected to resume Electron launches in late November with a mission for another radar imaging satellite company, Japan’s iQPS, but that launch has since slipped to mid-December.

“In addition to the upcoming launches with SpaceX, Capella will also continue working with Rocket Lab to launch satellites into orbit,” Capella said in its statement about the SpaceX launch agreements, but did not disclose when those launches would take place.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...