SAN FRANCISCO – German launch services provider Exolaunch announced an agreement to launch two Loft Orbital microsatellites on SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare missions.
Under the contract, Exolaunch will handle mission management, deployment and integration services for Loft Orbital, a San Francisco startup planning to establish a constellation of standard microsatellites to fly payloads, sensors and experiments for customers.
Exolaunch announced plans in April to arrange rides for multiple small satellites on SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare missions. Loft Orbital is the first customer announced.
Exolaunch is preparing to launch Loft Orbital’s YAM-3 satellite, built by LeoStella, a Seattle-based joint venture of Thales Alenia Space and Spaceflight Industries, on a Falcon 9 flight scheduled for December 2020. YAM-3 includes an internet-of-things payload, an onboard autonomy demonstration, a position and queuing demonstration and blockchain applications.
YAM-3 will deploy from the Falcon 9 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter port with CarboNIX, Exolaunch’s microsatellite separation system.
Exolaunch plans to send another Loft Orbital satellite to space on a 2021 SpaceX flight.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Exolaunch for YAM-3’s launch,” Pierre-Damien Vaujour, Loft Orbital co-CEO, said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to a long-term partnership with their team.”
Exolaunch Commercial Director Jeanne Medvedeva said in a statement, “Loft Orbital’s unique service of aggregating multiple payloads on their satellites addresses the industry’s acute demand for reduced complexity and costs.”
Loft Orbital planned to launch its first satellite, YAM-2, on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in mid-2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created launch delays.
“The overall uncertainty, travel restrictions and shipment delays due to the pandemic mainly affected the rideshare launches scheduled for mid-year,” Medvedeva told SpaceNews. “Thankfully, the production of our separation systems within Germany wasn’t affected. But it was challenging to guarantee timely shipments due to the lack of flights.”
In cases where Exolaunch employees haven’t been able to integrate vehicles at launch sites due to the pandemic, the company has instructed customers to perform the integration virtually, Medvedeva said. “We hope that the situation will improve in the upcoming months to enable smooth preparations for the Falcon 9 launch at the end of the year,” she added.
Blue Canyon Technologies built Loft Orbital’s YAM-2 satellite.
“Remaining satellite bus, payload and launch vehicle agnostic is a core part of Loft Orbital’s value proposition,” Vaujour said.