Spaceflight Inc. has been providing comprehensive launch and mission management services for its customers for more than 10 years, but the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have required more flexibility, adaptability and ingenuity than ever before. For Spaceflight’s mission support teams, this has included coordinating international travel with daily fluctuations due to country-specific restrictions, navigating last-minute supply chain delays, re-manifesting customers on new launches due to delays on their original launch, managing weeks of isolation in international quarantines, and handling integration and logistics for customers who can’t travel to integration facilities.
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Spaceflight Inc. Provides Launch Reliability Amidst Pandemic, Managing Extended Quarantines and Travel Complexities to Deliver on Customers’ Mission Needs (Graphic: Business Wire)
Spaceflight is currently managing three consecutive dedicated Rocket Lab launches for its customer BlackSky, a leading technology platform providing real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring. The back-to-back-to-back launches will each carry two BlackSky smallsats to Low Earth orbit. Spaceflight’s RL-8, coined “Love At First Insight” by Rocket Lab, is the first of the launches and slated to launch the last week of August from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The next two launches, Spaceflight’s RL-10 and RL-11, will follow in subsequent weeks.
“Our primary objective is to help our customers launch their spacecraft when and where they want,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “The global pandemic has presented us with challenges we’ve never imagined and I’m proud that our team has continued to say ‘challenge accepted.’ While these rapid succession launches provide BlackSky with a reliable way to get their constellation on orbit quickly, executing the launches during a global pandemic places significant demands on all the teams involved, including weeks of quarantine and being separated from their families for several months. We’re extremely grateful for all the teams’ dedication and flexibility during these very demanding circumstances.”
Since February of 2020, when travel restrictions and lockdowns started to occur around the world, Spaceflight’s U.S.-based team has managed:
- 12 missions, seven of which launched outside the U.S. from facilities in French Guiana, India and New Zealand, requiring the team to take personal health risks traveling prior to vaccine availability, along with navigating each country’s health protocols, entry requirements, and in-person work restrictions.
- The deployment of 113 spacecraft from organizations in 11 countries, each with varying restrictions for travel, impacting spacecraft integration processing.
- Approximately 130 days of quarantine for Spaceflight’s team supporting its international launches.
- 50 additional COVID-19 tests in support of mission travel.
- 0 cases of COVID-19 for Spaceflight staff supporting the missions.
“Spaceflight Inc. played an important role in the successful launches of Kleos’ recent missions and has proven to be a proactive and flexible partner,” said Andy Bowyer, Kleos Space CEO. “They went above and beyond the call of duty to get our scouting satellites launched in the middle of a pandemic. We are grateful to have Spaceflight’s expertise and experience at our disposal as we prepare for the launch of future clusters.”
Blake added, “It’s not an overstatement to say the pandemic has required personal heroics and sacrifice to deliver the unbridled service our customers rely on; we’re in awe of the team’s professionalism and adherence to health guidelines to keep everyone safe and our customers’ missions on track.”
The company recently deployed 36 spacecraft on its SXRS-5 mission (SpaceX’s Transporter-2) in June. The mission marked the first flight of two Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) including Sherpa-LTE1, the industry’s first electric propulsive OTV. In addition to many traditional rideshare and dedicated missions this year, Spaceflight is preparing for the inaugural flight of Sherpa-LTC1, its chemical propulsive OTV on SpaceX’s Transporter-3 mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than December 2021.
About Spaceflight Inc.
As the premier global launch services provider, Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of space transportation through its comprehensive suite of launch services and Sherpa® orbital transfer vehicles. The company provides unprecedented launch flexibility to ensure customers’ smallsats get to orbit exactly when and where they want through a combination of long-standing relationships with a diverse portfolio of launch partners, innovative satellite integration capabilities, including flight and ground support hardware, licensing and logistics management, and extensive mission management expertise. Based in Seattle, Spaceflight has successfully launched hundreds of satellites and is a part of the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. portfolio, operating as an independent, U.S.-based company. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com.