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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches D-Orbit ION Satellite Carrier with 20 Spacecraft Aboard

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
January 24, 2021
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COMO, Italy (D-Orbit PR) — On January 24th, 2021, at 4:00 pm CET, we launched another ION Satellite Carrier atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Florida. On the same day, 1 hour 16 minutes and 28 seconds the vehicle was successfully deployed into a polar orbit.

The spacecraft, named ION SCV Laurentius, is an upgraded and enhanced version of the vehicle launched in the fall of 2020, which precisely deployed twelve satellites in orbit. 

​During its mission, named PULSE, the vehicle will deploy 20 satellites, among which eight SuperDoves from Earth imaging company Planet Labs, and perform the in-orbit demonstration of two optical payloads from EICAS and Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) respectively, among other experiments on unique payloads

ION Pulse Mission Roadmap


As soon as ION SCV Laurentius reaches orbit, our spacecraft operations engineers establish a bidirectional communication channel. We then start the launch and early orbit phase (LEOP), neutralizing the rotation imparted by the launch vehicle during separation, correcting the attitude, testing the satellite’s subsystems, and preparing for the next phases.


Once concluded the commissioning phase, ION SCV Laurentius starts the commercial phase of the mission with the deployment of the hosted satellites into a 500km sun-synchronous orbit. Over a period of about four weeks, ION performs the precise deployment of 20 satellites.

As in its previous mission ORIGIN, ION deploys satellites through its innovative deployment strategy, called FAST DISPERSION, which enables an even distribution of the spacecraft along the operational orbit within a fraction of the time allowed by traditional dispersion techniques. 


After completing the deployment phase, ION SCV Laurentius performs the in-orbit demonstration and validation (IOD/IOV) of two commercial third-party payloads:

  • ARGO, a fully autonomous plug & play star tracker developed by EICAS Automazione.
  • DRAGO – Demonstrator for Remote Analysis of Ground Observations, a short-wave infrared space camera for Earth observation developed by the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC).


Before the official end of the mission, our engineers perform additional testing of subsystems, maneuvers, and procedures in preparation for the upcoming  Wild Ride mission.


At the end of the mission, the spacecraft is decommissioned in compliance with the Space Debris Mitigation guidelines. The pressure vessels are depleted from leftover fuel and oxidizer, the battery charging system is deactivated, and the batteries are completely discharged. The spacecraft, now inert, enters a decommissioning trajectory that will bring it to burn up upon atmospheric re-entry within a few years.