If you’re of a certain age, you most likely remember Burger King’s jingle poking fun at McDonalds approach to burger making. “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us.” The concept struck a vein — don’t settle for the same burger as everyone else; customize it so it’s tailored just for you. Have it YOUR way.
While we’re providing launch and mission management services — admittedly a far cry from assembling burgers, the analogy is still strong. Spaceflight helps organizations design a launch “their way” and delivers a host of options for creating a launch that fits their needs. Our customers focus on building and operating their spacecraft and leave sourcing the ideal launch, along with managing logistics, licensing, and integration services to us.
Spaceflight arranges a mix of both traditional rideshare and dedicated launches across our large vehicle portfolio. This delivers maximum flexibility for organizations and, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the launch industry over the past 10 years, it’s the value of providing flexibility from the first mile to the last.
Earlier this spring, Spaceflight coordinated our first fully dedicated PSLV mission, successfully deploying our largest customer satellite to date, Amazonia-1, a nearly 700-kilogram Earth observation satellite. For Brazil’s INPE, the launch of its debut satellite was a significant achievement for the country and it was critical to have a launch tightly aligned with its manufacturing schedule.
Adenilson Silva, Amazonia’s mission representative commented: “Working with Spaceflight to secure a dedicated PSLV launch was critical to our launch of Amazonia-1. We needed to fully focus on preparing our satellite and leave the mission management and launch logistics to the team at Spaceflight. Their experience combined the dedicated PSLV provided the assurance that our ride to space was ready when we were.”
Spaceflight Is also managing the launch services behind getting eight BlackSky microsats on orbit via four dedicated Rocket Lab missions this year. This arrangement gives BlackSky more schedule and orbital control to get their constellation in orbit when they want.
Organizations with spacecraft that need to reach a specific orbit not served by traditional rideshare, or at a specific time when a traditional rideshare option is unavailable, may have a strategic business reason to choose a dedicated launch. But even with the purchase of an entire launch vehicle, our rideshare expertise proves valuable as we’re able to help them offset the premium price by ‘filling up’ any additional capacity with other small satellites.
There are also times when the schedule or a unique orbital destination isn’t the driving factor of launch. Many spacecraft are perfectly fine hitching a ride to a popular orbit and paying a fraction of the cost of the entire launch.
This more traditional rideshare option has allowed many organizations who couldn’t afford (or didn’t need) to be primary on a mission to successfully and efficiently get their payload on orbit. Many of our customers do both; in fact, RL-6, our most recent launch (Rocket Lab’s #TheyGoUpSoFast) was a traditional rideshare mission for BlackSky, and we managed others like that for them last year.
Something In Between or All of the Above
Still other customers want the initial affordable bus ride, but then want a taxi to take them to the front door. That’s where our propulsive Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) come in. Customer spacecraft can take the bus as part of a traditional rideshare mission, and then have one of our propulsive Sherpa OTVs taxi their spacecraft to its final destination — whether that’s GTO, cislunar or another unique orbit. We’re doing exactly that for NASA’s LLITED cubesats on a SpaceX mission at the end of year.
Clearly one size launch doesn’t fit everyone; we work with each customer to find the most cost-effective option for their needs each and every time they need a launch. It starts with understanding where and when the spacecraft need to be on orbit and designing a plan that incorporates timing and orbital requests balanced by cost and risk.
Our goal is to ensure our customers get to space, exactly when and where they want and are committed to finding whatever kind of launch they need, when they need it.
Besides, no one likes to pull off soggy pickles. Better to order it your way from the get-go.