- Parabolic Arc
- November 29, 2023
Who Launched What on SpaceX’s Five Transporter Missions
Third in a Series
Part I: Elon Musk Drinks Your Milkshake: The Impact of SpaceX Rideshare Missions on the Small Launch Market
Part II: Satellite Operators Face Limited Selection of Small Launch Vehicles as Sector Slowly Emerges
In Part I of this series, we looked at how development of small satellite launchers was being impacted by rideshare and secondary payload launches aboard larger boosters. In Part II, we examined the limited number of small boosters available to satellite operators who want to launch their payloads.
Today, we’ll break down who launched what on SpaceX’s five Transporter rideshare missions that have carried more than 400 payloads since January 2021.
All five SpaceX Transporter missions have placed satellites into sun synchronous orbit (SSO). This near polar orbit allows a satellite to pass over any point on the planet’s surface at the same local mean solar time (hour angle of the sun).
Transporter 1-5 Payloads by Function
|Earth Observation/Remote Sensing||172||39.4|
|Internet of Things||20||4.6|
|CubeSat Deployer/Satellite Dispenser||12||2.8|
|Plug and Play||1||0.23|
SSO is particularly useful for Earth observation and remote sensing because the illumination angle for any is nearly the same each time a satellite passes over a particular location. There were 172 satellites with these functions launched on the five missions, accounting for 39.4 percent of the total.
There were 122 communications satellites of various purposes and sizes were also launched, accounting for 28 percent. Technology demonstrations of various kinds, Internet of Things and signal intelligence round out the top five categories.
Who Launched What
Planet Labs had the highest number of satellites launched on Transporter missions with 92. That means one-in-five payloads on Transporter missions were owned by the San Francisco company.
Swarm Technologies launched 64 SpaceBEE communications satellites on the Transporter-1 and -2 missions. Twelve additional SpaceBees were launched on the Transporter-4 mission after SpaceX acquired the company in August 2021. SpaceBEEs are one-quarter the size of a standard 1U CubeSat.
Transporter 1-5 Payloads by Company (Top 11)
|Company/Organization||Function(s)||No. of Satellites||Percentage|
|Planet Labs||Earth observation||92||21.1|
|SpaceX||Communications (13, Starlink, 12 SpaceBees)||25||5.7|
|Spire Global||Signal intelligence, Earth observation||23||5.3|
|HawkEye 360||Signal intelligence||12||2.8|
|FOSSA Systems||Internet of Things (9), Satellite Dispenser (2)||11||2.5|
SpaceX launched a total of 25 satellites, including 13 Starlink broadband spacecraft and the 12 SpaceBees.
Spire Global launched 23 satellites. The company provides signal collection and Earth observation services to the maritime industry.
ICEYE and Satellogic came next with 14 and 13 Earth observation satellites, respectively. Kepler, FOSSA Systems, Astrocast and Kleos Space round out list of top companies.
Payloads by Nation
American payloads made up 278 of the 436 payloads launches, which amounts to just under 63.8 percent of the total.
Transporter 1-5 Payloads by Nation (Top 10)
|Nation||Number of Satellites||Percentage|
Canada lags far behind in second place with 16 payloads, followed by Spain and Finland with 15 each, Argentina with 14, and Switzerland with 12. Israel, Germany, Luxembourg and Italy round out the top 10.