BREMEN, Germany — German launch services provider Exolaunch has signed a multi-launch agreement for more capacity on SpaceX Transporter rideshare missions over the next two years.
The new deal greatly boosts capacity available to Exolaunch and follows big demand for its services demonstrated by previous and upcoming missions.
Exolaunch has already signed agreements for four SpaceX Transporter missions across 2022. Over 95 percent of that capacity, at more than 100 satellites and with a combined payload mass of 3,000 kilograms, has already been booked.
The next mission, Transporter-3, is scheduled to launch no earlier than January 2022 from Cape Canaveral. The last mission, Transporter-2, which launched June 30, saw around 25 percent of the payload mass go through Exolaunch.
Jeanne Medvedeva, vice president of launch services at Exolaunch said: “This massive increase in procured capacity reflects the high customer demand we have had as a result of our successful mission management, satellite integration and deployment services on all previous missions with SpaceX.”
Exolaunch helps satellite operators with cost-effective launch opportunities for low mass microsatellites and cubesats, avoiding the need to pay for a block of hundreds of kilograms of payload.
The company arranges clusters of satellites to use the available kilograms and to optimize launch price. Exolaunch also offers in-house adapters and separation systems as well as other services to get the customer into orbit.
“We’re the missing link between SpaceX and the smallsats themselves,” Michael Tolstoj, mission director at Exolaunch, told SpaceNews at Space Tech Expo Europe 2021. “If you’re a cubesat manufacturer, it’s very difficult or impossible to launch directly without a large amount of resources being invested.”
A total of 46 cubesats were deployed by the firm’s EXOpods on SpaceX’s Transporter-1 and 2 mission, wth 13 microsats separated by the CarboNIX system.
So far Exolaunch has launched over 1,500 kg of satellite mass and a diverse mix of missions by leading NewSpace companies from various countries all over the world, the company says.
The expansion of Exolaunch’s cooperation with SpaceX and its large number of U.S. customers has seen the Berlin-based company set up a U.S. office.
“I think we’re getting to a point where we have a really great process for getting customers signed to actually launching them,” says Kier Fortier of US Launch at Exolaunch. “The Transporter missions and Starlink rideshares have been a very good program for us in general.”
Exolaunch is a spinoff of the Technical University of Berlin and facilitated its first launch in 2013 aboard a Soyuz. Most of the company’s flights have been on Soyuz flights, but it is the newer Transatlantic partnership providing the greatest opportunities.
Exolaunch is also continuing to develop its Reliant space tugs to provide last-mile delivery services and remove space debris, with a flight test expected in late 2022.
The spacecraft can provide altitude change for satellite operators that would prefer a different orbit to that facilitated by a rideshare mission, such as lowering altitude for optimizing an optical payload’s capabilities.