We’re closing out 2021 with a flurry of launches. After signing a multi-launch agreement to launch BlackSky satellites at the beginning of the year, Spaceflight supported three successive launches for the provider of real-time geospatial intelligence in the past 30 days:
- RL-8: On November 18 (UTC), Spaceflight managed a dedicated launch for two BlackSky satellites aboard a Rocket Lab Electron. The “Love At First Insight” mission lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. Fun fact: BlackSky reported the satellites were fully operational and making revenue within six days of launch.
- SXRS-2: A couple weeks later on December 2, a SpaceX Falcon 9 Starlink mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida carrying 48 Starlink satellites along with two BlackSky satellites. BlackSky’s two optical satellites separated from the rocket’s upper stage about an hour after liftoff and were in communication shortly thereafter. They will join eight others on orbit to help fill out BlackSky’s planned constellation. Fun fact: The previously-flown Falcon 9 marked this particular booster’s ninth flight.
- RL-10: Just six short days later on December 9 (UTC), two more Blacksky satellites lifted off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The latest Electron mission, “A Data With Destiny,” successfully took the two BlackSky satellites to low Earth orbit as part of the company’s rapid expansion of its satellite constellation. Fun fact: According to Rocket Lab, the successful ‘A Data With Destiny’ mission also marked the fastest launch turnaround by Rocket Lab to date, with this latest mission lifting-off just 21 days after RL-8.
But we’re not done yet!
At the end of December, we’re planning to launch a CubeSat, GT-1 from Georgia Tech, on our MDS-1 mission. This marks our first mission with Mitsui Deployment Service (MDS), with spacecraft deploying from the International Space Station (ISS) via Japanese Exploration Module (JEM), Kibo. GT-1 will head to space aboard the Cargo Dragon for CRS-24, as part of an ISS resupply mission. Once aboard the ISS, the astronauts will load the deployer into the JEM and the satellites will be deployed using a robotic arm on the ISS. That’s a fun ride for the powerful little CubeSat!
These year-end successive launches will bring the total number of payloads managed and launched by Spaceflight to 79, across 11 missions which flew 3 Sherpa OTVs, for the year.
And with several more launches teed up and ready to fly in January, we’re off to an exciting 2022!