SSO-A SmallSat Express Wrap Up!

SSO-A Fairing on SpaceX Falcon 9: Photograph by Jack Beyer for http://NASASpaceflight.com

SSO-A SmallSat Express is an Outstanding Success!

December 3, 2018 was a historic day for Spaceflight and SpaceX!  Spaceflight successfully launched 64 customer spacecraft to orbit, and SpaceX flew a rocket for the third time and landed the booster successfully on a barge in the Pacific Ocean.  The launch was picture perfect with the Falcon 9 ascending to space against the back drop of a cloudless California sky.

Ten minutes after liftoff, the Falcon began its six deployments; four Spaceflight customer spacecraft and two Spaceflight satellite carriers.  These carriers began their deployment sequences an hour and a half later and continued over the course of about three hours. Several of our customers contacted their spacecraft before we even received our first telemetry signal which confirmed their separation!  It was an exciting day as customers reported contact with their spacecraft as the day went on.

The most common question that I have received since launch has been “How did it go?”.  The short answer is 100% mission success since our system did everything it was designed to do.  The next question is “How are the customers doing?”. Overall they seem to be doing extremely well.  One customer was not deployed, as expected, because we sealed them inside their dispenser when they could not demonstrate adequate licensing.  We strongly suspect that a second spacecraft did not fully deploy from their customer-provided dispenser, which is still under investigation. Currently all but six spacecraft have been contacted by their owners and we hope that the organizations still working to contact their spacecraft have success in the next few days as all objects are positively identified and labeled by CSpOC.

This mission is the culmination of three years of work by the talented engineers at Spaceflight to enable access to space for more than 35 organizations in 17 countries around the world.  Although our work on this record-setting mission is complete, our customers’ work has just begun as they continue their early orbit operations and start transitioning to operational status.  And Spaceflight has more customers to launch, with the first commercial lunar lander mission in a couple months, and a new contract to launch Brazil’s first indigenous spacecraft, Amazonia-1!

Photo credit: SpaceX