SpaceX has successfully dispatched the third launch of 2021, first out of several more missions arranged for the Smallsat Rideshare Program. This flight, Transporter-1, which launched a record number of satellites on the same mission, went off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Florida on Sunday, January 24 during a 42 minute window that opened at 10:00 EST.
The number of payloads/satellites on this mission was more than sufficient to break both the U.S. and, world records for most satellites dispatched in one mission. With this record breaking launch of 143 satellites (133 commercial and government spacecraft and 10 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites) SpaceX has outperformed the Indian past record holder for most satellites dispatched in a solitary mission that launched 104 satellites in 2017.
The Smallsat Rideshare Program missions are planned in order to give a chance to small satellite operators to dispatch together. This diminishes costs on routinely booked flights to frequently used orbits.
This mission’s target audiences was the small satellite rocket companies like Rocket Lab or Virgin Orbit. As these companies currently have tested boosters and are in the process of developing their rockets. Despite the fact that smaller rockets offer service devoted for small satellites and launch them up one or two at a time. Smaller companies won’t be able to compete with SpaceX’s low price of $15,000 per kilogram delivered to a Sun-synchronous orbit.
A Unique Polar Corridor Route
The Sherpa-FX carried three hosted payloads and deployed 13 small satellites. The other 130 satellites were integrated to either independent dispenser put on Falcon 9 or were placed jointly on other dispenser platforms that separated from Falcon 9 and later deployed their satellites.
Before the satellites were deployed, Falcon 9 placed into a Sun-synchronous orbit of 550 km inclined 97.59 degrees to the equator.
Unlike a normal launch, which would have typically required taking off in a south-southwesterly direction from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California in order to reach this orbit. SpaceX decided to pursue a unique approach and used a polar launch corridor. This launch allowed the Falcon 9 to fly from the south-southeast direction between Florida and The Bahamas and then maneuver to the south-southwest direction achieving the degree of inclination required for this mission.
This polar launch from Florida occurred over open water, which allowed SpaceX to avoid the risk of violating land over flight restrictions in the powered phase of ascent to orbit.
Also, this launch benefited SpaceX in permitting the company to successfully launch Sun-synchronous and polar missions from Florida without having to move Falcon 9 first stages across the country.
Transporter-1 is the second mission to use this polar corridor route from Florida since 1969. The same payload fairings that protected SAOCOM-1B, the last mission to use this route in late-August 2020, was used to protect the Transporter-1 payloads.
What these Satellite will do in orbit
Three Hawk 2 satellites will quite literally save lives. The satellites act as a part of a global intelligent radio frequency constellation that will monitor transportation on land, sea, and air. The aim of this monitoring is to assist during emergencies by detecting and locating emergency beacons and improving response times during crisis.
However, The ARCE (Articulated Reconnaissance and Communication Expedition) satellites from the University of South Florida have a similar task, but these satellites will test inter-satellite networked communication capabilities in space.
Besides communications, several satellites sent on the Transporter-1 mission will carry-out several Earth observation missions and tests using the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The importance of SAR technology lies in its ability to allow satellites a “cloud-see-through” vision that can continuously monitor Earth’s surface regardless of the weather formations or atmospheric conditions
Likewise, the Sherpa-FX payload container will have Celestis 17. A detached payload containing incinerated human remaining parts. Likewise on Sherpa-FX is another aloof payload. The Extremely Low-Resource Optical Identifier (ELROI) test that will utilize LED lights to improve orbital distinguishing pieces of proof and trash moderation.