Seattle-based Spaceflight launch coordinator is preparing for its largest operation ever: Smallsat Express, which deploys an impressive 64 distinct satellites from 34 different customers, all from a single Falcon 9 rocket It's quite an effort, but the company believes that this type of congested "space bus" is the best way to make satellite deployment easy and inexpensive, even if it is relatively speaking.
Spaceflight, which debuted in 2011, has to its credit numerous launches from various suppliers. But the demand was so intense that after taking a handful of slot machines on this or that rocket, they finally decided to move on to the next logical step: "Why not buy our own Falcon?"
So founder Curt Blake explained the situation to me when I visited the company's modest office in Westlake, one kilometer from downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, he said, they made this investment just before another SpaceX Rocket exploded on the launch pad. This has shaken everyone, but in the end, the cost-benefit equation for this type of carpool is too logical.
"There have been a lot of shared launches before, but not on this scale," he said. Dozens of people were deployed, but not 64. Originally, their numbers were even higher, but some clients had to retreat relatively late. This is one of the drawbacks of a major joint launch: an inflexible schedule. If 9 out of 10 passengers are ready to leave, they can not wait and wait for the last one to have their ducks in line; the next favorable launch period could take months.
SpaceFlight, like other launch coordinators, takes care of several things for its clients: helping navigate the red tape and scheduling tasks, of course – but most importantly for a launch of this scale is to create a payload that can be launched dozens of satellites ranging from breadbox to cooler.
According to Blake, this payload is known as "FrankenStack" at SpaceX. A "stack" is made up of the components of the rocket payload that actually perform tasks. They learned a lot, Blake noted, and had to invent a lot to be able to install all the satellites.
The FrankenStack looks like a giant wedding cake, with several layers of satellite deployment equipment. After all, these satellites all go to different places, different orbits, different directions. You can not just get up and press the "release" button.
At the very bottom, or rather above the cone that attaches to the rocket scene, is the MPC, or multi-payload carrier, which contains various bulky objects on four shelves, including those to be thrown along. from the FrankenStack path. as opposed to perpendicular. Above are the hub part and the cubesat part, also called the upper end, because it will come off the MPC and follow its path.
If all goes well, there will be 64 other small stars in the sky by the end of tomorrow. Watch the live stream of the launch on the SpaceX site from around 10am.