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Spaceflight Reschedules Launch of 89 Satellites

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 3, 2017
Filed under , , , , , ,

SHERPA space tug. (Credit: Spaceflight, Inc.)

While Elon Musk keeps adding missions to the moon and Mars to SpaceX’s already crowded launch manifest, a Seattle company has been forced to find alternative rides to space for 89 satellites originally booked to launch on a Falcon 9 booster.

The small spacecraft were set to be deployed using Spaceflight’s SHERPA carrier, which would have been a secondary payload on Taiwan’s Formosat-5 satellite. The launch was originally scheduled for the end of 2015, but it recently suffered yet another delay.

“We found each of our customers an alternative launch that was within the same time frame,” [Spaceflight’s President, Curt ] Blake wrote. “It took a huge effort, but within two weeks, the team hustled to have all customers who wanted to be rebooked confirmed on other launches!”


Spaceflight was anticipating that the launch would finally take place around May or June, but Blake said SpaceX “recently communicated their 2017 manifest, and the impact on the Formosat-5 mission is significant.”

“We learned our launch would occur potentially much later than expected,” he said. By some accounts, the Formosat-5 mission has been shifted into 2018. That’s what led Spaceflight to look at alternatives….

The payloads that had been scheduled for deployment from the SHERPA carrier include Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 6 satellite, which is designed to test a midwave-infrared imaging system; and the Pathfinder-2 satellite, an Earth-observing spacecraft that serves as a prototype for Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky constellation.

6 responses to “Spaceflight Reschedules Launch of 89 Satellites”

  1. P.K. Sink says:

    Very nimble of Spaceflight. This is commercial space at it’s finest.

  2. Jeff2Space says:

    These things used to be called “hitchhikers” since they’re small secondary payloads that are taking advantage of excess capacity on the launch of a much bigger satellite. While I’m sure it is frustrating that launch delays for the primary payload impact them, they’re generally getting a much cheaper ride than if they tried to launch on a much smaller, but dedicated, launch vehicle.

    • Douglas Messier says:

      Launch of the primary payload is running four years beyond schedule. SpaceX originally sold them on launching aboard the never built Falcon 1e. Only 7.5 years from contract to launch!

      SpaceX Falcon 1e To Launch Taiwan’s Formosat-5 Craft
      by Peter B. de Selding
      June 15, 2010

      “Taiwan’s Formosat-5 optical Earth observation satellite will be launched aboard a Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 1e rocket in late 2013 or early 2014 under a contract SpaceX announced June 14.

      “Contract details were not announced, but Taiwan’s National Space Program Office (NSPO) had set a price ceiling for bidders of 871.5 million Taiwan dollars ($27 million) to place the 525-kilogram Formosat-5 into a 720-kilometer, sun-synchronous orbit inclined 98.28 degrees relative to the equator.”

  3. JamesG says:

    What are the alternate rides to orbit?

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