Launch provider’s experience with new propulsive options deemed paramount in helping scientists get spacecraft to non-traditional orbits
SEATTLE – March 22, 2021 — Spaceflight Inc., the global launch services provider, announced today it has been awarded a launch service contract for the integration and launch of NASA’s LLITED mission, two 1.5U spacecraft. Spaceflight Inc. will transport the NASA Low-Latitude Ionosphere/Thermosphere Enhancements in Density (LLITED) CubeSats to low Earth orbit on its Sherpa-LTC orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) at the end of the year aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. For this mission, the Sherpa-LTC, which uses chemical propulsion from Benchmark Space Systems, will make its initial spacecraft deployments and then ignite and maneuver to another orbital destination to deploy the NASA CubeSats.
The LLITED mission is a grant awarded to The Aerospace Corporation through NASA’s Division of Heliophysics in the Science Mission Directorate and was selected for flight by the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). As a U.S. government direct procurement, Spaceflight is the prime contractor to NASA for the mission and the launch service is led by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Launch Services Program. The LLITED team includes scientists and engineers from The Aerospace Corporation, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and University of New Hampshire.
“Spaceflight’s full-service offering with our portfolio of Sherpa OTVs vehicles greatly increases the scientific opportunities for NASA, universities, and other organizations that require deployments to non-traditional orbital destinations,” said Valerie Skarupa, director of government business development for Spaceflight Inc. “We’ve enjoyed a long relationship with NASA, launching nearly 20 spacecraft for the organization over the years, and are focused on helping them get their spacecraft exactly where they need to be on orbit. This opportunity is especially rewarding as the award recognized Spaceflight’s experience with in-space transportation systems.”
In January, Spaceflight successfully deployed 15 spacecraft from its first next-gen OTV (Sherpa-FX) on the record-breaking SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-1 launch. Spaceflight is preparing several Sherpas for launch with both electric and chemical propulsion for missions later this year along with many traditional rideshare and dedicated missions, for a total of approximately 10 launches in 2021.
The NASA CubeSat project, named LLITED, will investigate the equatorial temperature and wind anomaly that occurs in the neutral atmosphere, and the equatorial ionization anomaly that occurs in the region containing charged particles.
“Aerospace’s innovative CubeSat mission will measure these two features simultaneously, a major new milestone for on-orbit CubeSat satellite capability,” said. Dr. Rebecca Bishop, principal investigator for LLITED. “By observing this altitude region more closely, scientists will gain a greater understanding of the degree of change in atmosphere density, which in turn affects the amount of drag satellites encounter, as well as reentry rates. Because drag is dependent on atmosphere density, understanding regional changes in density can help predict an object’s reentry time and path.”
Celebrating 10 years of providing innovative launch services, Spaceflight has launched nearly 350 satellites across 37 missions on eight different launch vehicles, including the Falcon 9, Electron, PSLV, and Vega. It has orchestrated several industry firsts including the first fully dedicated rideshare with 64 smallsats about the historic SSO-A mission and the first-ever rideshare mission to GTO with a lunar lander.
About Spaceflight Inc.
As the premier global launch services provider, Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of space transportation through its comprehensive suite of launch services and Sherpa® orbital transfer vehicles. The company provides unprecedented launch flexibility to ensure customers’ smallsats get to orbit exactly when and where they want through a combination of long-standing relationships with a diverse portfolio of launch partners, innovative satellite integration capabilities, including flight and ground support hardware, licensing and logistics management, and extensive mission management expertise. Based in Seattle, Spaceflight has successfully launched hundreds of satellites and is a part of the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. portfolio, operating as an independent, U.S.-based company. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com.
About The Aerospace Corporation
The Aerospace Corporation is a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally
funded research and development center and has approximately 4,000 employees nationwide. With major locations in El Segundo, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Washington D.C., Aerospace addresses complex problems with agility, innovation, and objective technical leadership across the space enterprise and other areas of national significance. For more information, visit www.aerospace.org. Follow us on Twitter: @AerospaceCorp.
About NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative
NASA’s CSLI provides access to space for small satellites, CubeSats, developed by the NASA Centers and programs, educational institutions and non-profit organizations giving CubeSat developers access to a low-cost pathway to conduct research in the areas of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center manages the CubeSat missions.