Space Systems Loral has a Payload Orbital Delivery System (PODS) which is a cost-effective system for sending small satellites to orbit. It carries small spacecraft to orbit attached to large satellites, and then dispenses them as free-flyers near GEO.
Satellite rideshare organizer Spaceflight Industries and SpaceX will have first functionally dedicated rideshare mission to a relatively high-energy geostationary transfer orbit.
In 2019, Israel-based company SpaceIL’s lunar lander spacecraft will be launched using rocket ridesharing.
There will be rideshare opportunities to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) approximately every 12-18 months, or as customer demand requires.
The first mission will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 which was procured by SSL, a Maxar Technologies company. It will represent the two companies’ first combined launch and Spaceflight’s first mission beyond Lower Earth Orbit (LEO).
“We’re focused on getting our customers’ spacecraft into orbit in the most expeditious, cost-effective manner possible,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight. “The rideshare model is beneficial to everyone; the primary spacecraft as well as all the secondaries pay less than if they contracted to launch individually. In addition, working with a reliable partner like SSL to fulfill our first GTO mission increases our ability to service this growing destination. We’re looking forward to making GTO a routine and affordable destination for our clients.”
The manifest for this Falcon 9 GTO rideshare mission is completely full. It features several undisclosed payloads along with an unmanned lunar spacecraft from SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit organization that was competing in the Google Lunar XPrize to land a spacecraft on the Moon. The first rideshare satellites will separate in GTO and then the SSL host spacecraft will continue on to Geostationary Orbit (GEO) where the remaining rideshare satellites will be separated.
“Spaceflight has taken an innovative approach to aggregating launches and bringing a more cost-effective launch model to the industry as a result,” said David Bernstein, senior vice president of program management at SSL. “Working as a team with Spaceflight and SpaceX, we are enabling a unique mission that ultimately accomplishes a translunar injection, prior to dropping off other payloads on our way to geostationary orbit for the primary communications satellite.”