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High Demand for Smallsat Rideshare Services

The future will see a growth of aggregators like Spaceflight, NanoRacks and others who help smallsat guys to launch their microsatellites into space by arranging for rideshare missions. The increased demands for such rideshare missions may possibly make an impact on the growth of small launch vehicles.

There are several examples to prove the increased popularity of rideshare missions. A 19th December announcement by NanoRacks about a deal brokered by them involves launch of four Lemur cubesats belonging to a San Francisco located company, Spire on a PSLV.

NanoRacks specialize in transporting smallsats through cargo spacecraft which are launched from the ISS or the spacecraft itself if they have to be placed in farther polar orbits.

Spire, a cubesats constellation operator has had several such associations with NanoRacks and PSLV earlier. Spire, launch director, Jenny Barna was more than happy with the convenience and benefits accruing through the association.

Spaceflight is another player arranging rideshare services for new customers. One of their largest and a first of sorts deal involves launch of a 700 kilogram weighing satellite for Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. The Earth surveillance satellite named Amazonia-1 will be launched on a PSLV around the middle of 2020. Additional smallsats will share the remaining space. The contract follows another of their impact making launch which involved using a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 for launching about 64 smallsats belonging to varied customers.

SpaceX too has shown interest in partnering with aggregators for offering rideshare missions. SpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell could not help showing appreciation for the aggregators who were a great help to the smallsat guys. Without them, it would have been near to impossible to enabling the smallsat guys to put their satellites into orbit. Shotwell expressed her desire to help launching microsatellites by developing a planned launch schedule for them.

In view of the growing popularity of rideshare missions what the future has in store for the small launch vehicle developers remains to be seen.

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