Startups will fly into space for the first time with SpaceX’s Transporter 6 mission • Zoo House News
SpaceX is poised to launch 114 payloads into orbit tomorrow morning on a Falcon 9, the sixth mission of its Smallsat ride-sharing program. But while the rocket company is now an old hand at launches — SpaceX just had a record year of 61 launches in 2022 alone — Transporter-6 marks a milestone for a handful of space startups.
These startups include Launcher, which is conducting its first space tug mission; a first tech demonstration in orbit of Magdrive; and Epic Aerospace, also launching a space tug into space for the first time.
Launcher CEO Max Haot told Zoo House News that the company realized there was a huge market opportunity for developing a space tug after SpaceX rolled out its rideshare program, which drastically reduced launch costs. Launcher’s tugboat, called the Orbiter, will provide or host payloads for 10 different customers. The company is also developing a small launch vehicle; Orbiter will be his third stage.
Space tugs fill a market segment for customers who need a specific orbit but want to pay less than the cost of a dedicated rocket launch, Haot said.
“Eventually you’ll always need a dedicated rocket if you need a specific orbit at a higher cost, and eventually that’s where we’re going to compete, but the Space Tug really helps make those ride-sharing more useful as you can get more than just one orbit.” ,” he said.
Launcher isn’t the only company eyeing the burgeoning space tug market. Epic Aerospace, which bills itself as a space transportation network company, will also launch a tug on Transporter-6 for the first time. Space companies Momentus, D-Orbit and Exolaunch will also deploy or host satellites for customers on this mission.
It may seem like the space tug market is already crowded with players, but Haot said the ultimate winners are far from decided.
“If you look at the press coverage, it seems like a lot of companies are building space tugs. But if you look at the customers, this is very new and nobody has really demonstrated a large transmission capability that’s useful for satellite companies,” he said.
Magdrive, a UK-based startup developing a propulsion motor for high-thrust spacecraft, will also fly into space for the first time to present an in-orbit technology demonstration. The prototypical propulsion system will take electricity from on-board solar modules, store it and discharge it at different power levels.
“The mission will last 12 months, but we want to try as many loading and unloading options as quickly as possible so we can get as much data as possible,” Magdrive CEO Mark Stokes told Zoo House News.
Transporter-6 is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 9:56 am EST. It will be the fifteenth flight of the Falcon 9 booster, named B1060. Transporter-6 will also carry satellites for Planet Labs and Spire Global, as well as other payloads for science, research and commercial customers.
The launch will be broadcast live on SpaceX’s website.