Startups in the burgeoning small launch vehicle market acknowledge that only a handful of vehicles will survive a likely shakeout, driven more by commercial rather than government demand.
Small launch vehicle developer Relativity announced May 6 it has signed an agreement with Spaceflight for a series of smallsat rideshare launches.
Cloud Constellation CEO Cliff Beek said LeoStella, a joint venture of Thales Alenia Space and Spaceflight Industries, beat Northrop Grumman on price, among other factors.
After placing more than 60 satellites into orbit on a single Falcon 9 last year, Spaceflight says it will focus on launching smaller numbers of satellites at a time on more launches this year.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying an Indonesian communications satellite, an Israeli lunar lander and a U.S. Air Force smallsat launched Feb. 21 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
As LeoStella inaugurated the factory that will be used to produce a series of Earth imaging satellites, the joint venture of Thales Alenia Space and Spaceflight Industries continues to look for other customers.
Developers of small launch vehicles, who have promoted their vehicles as providing dedicated access to space for small satellites, say they’re also open to flying rideshare missions as they face competition from larger rockets.
A pair of new deals shows that, despite the growing number of small launch vehicles under development, demand from smallsat developers for rideshares on larger vehicles remains high.
The new launch date, announced Dec. 7 by customer Iridium Communications, was driven by the additional two weeks SpaceX ended up needing to launch Spaceflight Industries’ “SmallSat Express” dedicated rideshare mission.
As SpaceX prepares to launch a Falcon 9 carrying dozens of small satellites, some experts are worried that it will be difficult to track and identify the satellites once in orbit.
The organization that helped NASA’s Apollo spacecraft land on the moon a half-century ago is now working with an industry team that includes a Japanese lunar lander company to propose a commercial return to the lunar surface.
Spaceflight announced Aug. 6 that it’s beginning final preparations for a dedicated Falcon 9 launch later this year carrying more than 70 smallsats for a variety of commercial, government and educational customers.
Spaceflight Industries has secured rideshare opportunities on two Vega rocket missions for tiny satellites.
Companies that are developing small launch vehicles or who provide rideshare launch services say they expect new Chinese launch vehicles to drive down launch prices, raising concerns among some of unfair competition.