Spaceflight, SpaceX Sign Secondary Payload Pact

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Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. announced June 11 that it had signed a launch services agreement with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to manifest secondary payloads on upcoming Falcon launches.

Spaceflight and SpaceX signed a memorandum of understanding in 2010 to manifest payloads on Falcon 9 flights. The newly signed launch services agreement allows Spaceflight to manifest payloads on any Falcon vehicle designated by SpaceX as having excess capacity, Spaceflight said in a press release.

Spaceflight said it aims to launch “a multitude of small payloads” on a commercial Falcon 9 mission slated for early 2013. The cubesats, nanosats and microsats Spaceflight is lining up for the mission will ride to orbit attached to the Spaceflight Secondary Payload System (SSPS), built around a custom ring manufactured by Moog CSA Engineering. The SSPS is equipped with a dedicated avionics and power system designed to monitor the secondary payloads, initiate their deployment and relay video and telemetry of their separation to a ground station.

“This is a significant milestone in the development of a robust launch capability for small and secondary payloads,” Jason Andrews, Spaceflight president and chief executive, said in a statement. “With the launch of our SSPS we now have a dedicated system to increase space access for this growing market segment.”

SpaceX’s 2013 launch manifest comprises four launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and one from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. In addition to launching commercial telecommunications satellites for fleet operators SES of Luxembourg and Thaicom of Thailand, SpaceX is slated to fly two international space station resupply missions for NASA and launch a satellite out of Vandenberg for Taiwan’s National Space Organization.