By Jeff Foust,
Published by SpaceNews, 10 August 2023
LOGAN, Utah — SpaceX is offering a second class of rideshare missions on its Falcon 9 rocket to serve customers seeking to go to mid-inclination orbits.
During a presentation at the 37th Annual Small Satellite Conference here Aug. 9, Jarrod McLachlan, director of rideshare sales at SpaceX, said the company will start launching a series of missions dubbed “Bandwagon” that will complement its existing Transporter line of rideshare missions.
The Bandwagon missions will deliver payloads at altitudes of 550 to 605 kilometers and inclinations of approximately 45 degrees. “It’s a way of meeting the demand for the second most commonly asked orbit,” he said.
Four Bandwagon missions are currently scheduled. According to SpaceX’s rideshare website, those missions are scheduled for April and November 2024 and February and May 2025.
Those will be in addition to the Transporter missions that SpaceX has been flying since 2021, which have gone to sun-synchronous orbits. SpaceX also offers “traditional” rideshares where smallsats are flown as secondary payloads on launches going to a wide variety of orbits, including low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit and translunar injection trajectories.
SpaceX has become the leading provider of rideshare launches through Transporter and other launches. McLachlan said the company has flown 682 spacecraft to date through its rideshare program, with the vast majority — 664 — going to sun-synchronous orbits, which are in high demand for Earth observation and other applications.
The company has evolved the program since its inception, including a change to a modular “rideshare plate” system for attaching payloads. The new system, he said, simplifies engineering for rideshare missions and increases volume available for payloads.
The company currently charges $5,500 per kilogram of payload, but that price is increasing annually by $500 per kilogram. McLachlan said customers can lock in a lower price if they pay in full on contract signature, even if the mission is launching years later.
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