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Seattle-based launch coordinator Spaceflight is gearing up for its biggest operation yet: Smallsat Express, deploying a staggering 64 separate satellites from 34 different clients — all from a single Falcon 9 rocket. It’s quite an endeavor, but the company believes that this kind of jam-packed “space bus” is the best way to make satellite deployment cheap and easy — relatively speaking, anyway.
Spaceflight, started in 2011, has plenty of launches from a variety of providers under its belt. But demand has been so intense that after taking up a handful of slots on this or that rocket, they finally decided to take the next logical step: “Why not buy our own Falcon?”
Founder - Curt - Blake - Company - Office
That’s how founder Curt Blake explained it to me when I visited the company’s modest office in Westlake, a mile or so from downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, he said, they happened to make that investment just before another SpaceX rocket exploded on the launch pad. That rattled everyone, but ultimately the cost-benefit equation for wholesale rideshare like this makes too much sense.
“There have been lots of shared launches before, but not on this scale,” he said. Dozens deployed, but not 64. The number was actually even higher originally, but some clients had to back out relatively late in the game. That’s one of the downsides of a major shared launch: an inflexible timeline. If 9 out of 10 of the passengers are ready to go, they can’t sit and wait while the last one gets their ducks in a row; the next favorable launch time...
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