Satellite rideshare provider Spaceflight purchases first commercial launch of ISRO's SSLV
Launch services and mission management provider Spaceflight, which offers routine, cost-effective access to space, has announced that it will purchase the first commercial flight of India’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, (SSLV).
The new vehicle, which is being developed by Indian space agency ISRO, is scheduled to make its debut later this year and aims to provide affordable solutions. The vehicle is a derivative of the existing, larger Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which is designed for research and development and national missions. NewSpace India Limited, ISRO’s new commercial arm, will market the SSLV in the global space market.
Spaceflight, which is known for providing ride-share services on a wide range of launch vehicles, said the SSLV would be a “more affordable and cost-effective solution” for its customers.
“The SSLV is a much-needed solution to fill the gap in the portfolio of small launch vehicles,” said Curt Blake, CEO and President of Spaceflight, in a Businesswire report.
“SSLV is designed for the launch-on-demand concept with very quick turn-around capability in between launches. SSLV is perfectly suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs. We are excited to add SSLV to our launch portfolio and manage many launches together – first to LEO mid-inclinations this year and SSO missions starting in the fall of 2020.”
Spaceflight will use the vehicle to launch payloads for an undisclosed US satellite constellation customer. The launch, scheduled for later this year, will be the second for the SSLV (the demonstration launch is expected only by September).
Much more cost-effective
Speaking about the decision, Curt said: “The price is a little bit better than rideshares on PSLV. In terms of small launch vehicles, it’s much better than what’s out there.”
“I think it is hugely exciting because it’s an attractive price point and, for us, it’s a really good size. And there is a shortage of launch capacity right now, especially to sun-synchronous orbit,” he added, according to Space News.
Curt added that a launch was such a scarce resource that “not optimising to bring your costs down by utilising every bit of capacity there is kind of wrong”.
With the mission, Spaceflight will have executed nine missions with ISRO, sending more than 100 spacecraft to orbit on board its launch vehicles. Its first SSLV mission will deploy commercial spacecraft in two different orbital planes. Prior to zeroing in on SSLV, Spaceflight considered PSLV as one of the viable options for its ride-share facilities.
The introduction of SSLV is expected to boost business. The SSLV can carry up to 500 kg to place small satellites into mid-inclination, low-Earth orbit and 300 kg to SSO (Sun-synchronous Orbit).
But the SSLV isn’t the only one making its way into space. Elon Musk-led SpaceX has also entered the arena of small satellite business, and promises to help put a satellite into the sun-synchronous orbit. According to Ars Technica, SpaceX will provide launch services through Falcon 9 at $2.25 million for 150 kg.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)