SpaceX and Spaceflight have signed a first-time deal giving Spaceflight use of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for a “dedicated rideshare mission.”
Spaceflight announced the pact Sept. 30 as a rocket “purchase.” More precisely, the Seattle-based company is buying a rocket launch from SpaceX.
That mission — dubbed the “2017 Sun Synch Express” — will launch into low Earth orbit in the second half of 2017. Spaceflight said it expects to participate in at least one dedicated rideshare launch per year, but it didn’t specific with whom.
Financial terms of the agreement with SpaceX weren’t disclosed. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company reportedly has charged $60 million to $65 million for Falcon 9 launches in the past.
“By purchasing and manifesting the entire SpaceX rocket, Spaceflight is well-positioned to meet the small-sat industry’s growing demand for routine, reliable access to space,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight’s launch business. “Our purchase of a private rocket further continues our mission of providing a customer-focused, full-service launch experience.”
The 2017 Sun Synch Express mission manifest includes more than 20 satellites for Spaceflight customers.
“Dedicated missions for rideshare-class payloads are an excellent way to promote space enterprise and research,” SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said. “We are pleased that Spaceflight has successfully brought this multifaceted partnership together.”
Spaceflight has launched 81 satellites to date. Founded in 1999 as Andrews Space, Spaceflight in 2014 added a division offering spacecraft-communications services for its small-sat customers.
SpaceX hasn’t had a launch since the June 28 explosion of an unmanned Falcon 9 soon after liftoff in an International Space Station resupply mission for NASA. The rocket company has been working to resume operations while simultaneously working with NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration on formal findings in the Falcon 9 explosion.