Transporter-3 — Third Rideshare mission of SpaceX
On January 13 at 10:25 a.m. EST (15:25 UTC), Falcon 9 launched Transporter-3, SpaceX's third dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This was the tenth launch and landing of this Falcon 9 stage booster, which previously supported launch of Crew Demo-2, ANASIS-II, CRS-21, Transporter-1, and five Starlink missions. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9's first stage on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 1)
On board this launch were 105 commercial and government spacecraft — including CubeSats, microsats, PocketQubes, and orbital transfer vehicles.
Figure 1: A Falcon 9 launches the Transporter-3 rideshare mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida (image credit: SpaceX)
Orbit: Sun-synchronous orbit with a nominal altitude of 525 km and an inclination of 98º
SpaceX said the launch carried 105 spacecraft. The largest single customer, in terms of number of spacecraft, was Earth observation company Planet, which flew 44 SuperDove spacecraft. 2)
Planet was one of many companies using the launch to replenish or augment their constellations. Spire had four Lemur multipurpose satellites on Transporter-3, while Kepler had three for its satellite connectivity constellation. Synthetic aperture radar companies Capella Space, Iceye and Umbra each had spacecraft on the launch as well.
Figure 2: Illustration of the initial flight path of Falcon 9. The first stage landed at the company's Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, the first land landing of a Falcon 9 booster since the Transporter-2 rideshare mission in June 2021 (image credit: SpaceX)
Figure 3: The first stage for Transporter-3, core B1058, touches down at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida (image credit: SpaceX)
All of the spacecraft were deployed within about 90 minutes of liftoff.
• ION Satellite Carrier. A platform developed and operated by Italian company D-Orbit. The platform features a customizable 64U satellite dispenser capable of hosting a combination of CubeSats that fits the volume. Throughout a mission, ION Satellite Carrier can release the hosted satellites individually, changing orbital parameter between one deployment and the next. Each of the miniature CubeSats weighs a few kilograms.
• Alba Cluster 3 of Alba Orbital. A PocketQube dispenser of the largest PocketQube deployment so far with satellites manifested for launch from a total of eight different countries, including pico-satellites from Innova Space (Argentina), TU Delft (Netherlands) and Ariel University (Israel).
• Capella 7 & 8 of Capella Space. The two microsatellites have a launch mass of 112 kg. Each satellite has two 500 mm x 900 mm deployable solar arrays, a 8 m2 deployable antenna and a 3 m long boom deploy from the principal bus structure.
• ICEYE 15 &16. Two SAR satellites of ICEYE US (Irvine, CA) with ExoLaunch service provider.
• Sich-2-30 EO satellites of SSAU Urkraine.
• UMBRA-02 SAR microsatellite of Umbra Space, Santa Barbara, CA.
• BRO-5 of Unseenlabs, France. A satellite system for maritime domain awareness.
• Dodona, a 3U CubeSat of USC (University of Southern California). Dodona is part of Lockheed Martin's larger La Jument program and Dodona is the first is a series of demonstration flights. The La Jument payload suite includes low SWAP (size, weight and power) optical and infrared cameras that employ algorithms to enhance imagery on-orbit, plus Lockheed Martin's Compass advanced mission planning app.
• DEWASAT-1, a 3U and a 6U CubeSat of DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) under its Space-D program (technology demonstration). The 3U CaubSat was designed and developed at its R&D Centre in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
• ETV-A1, a 16U CubeSat of the British company Sen. The satellite is equipped with UHD (Ultra High Definition) video cameras. The service, which will include a freely accessible app for individuals, will be used for monitoring environmental events and natural disasters such as wild fires, floods and storms, as well as monitoring climate change and movement of large groups of people.
• Flock 4 SuperDoves, 44 in total, of Planet San Francisco. Planet is using the launch of Transporter-3 to replenish or augment their EO constellation. — This marks Planet's first launch with SpaceX under the new multi-year, multi-launch rideshare agreement signed in 2021. 3) Planet was able to establish contact with all of the SuperDove satellites, many within two minutes of the final deployment, upholding Planet's record of successfully connecting with 100% of all Planet satellites launched. Our constellations provide daily insights about the Earth's resources and global events. With the latest addition of 44 SuperDove satellites, our PlanetScope product will continue to offer our customers satellite data captured from the latest and strongest technology. We use just-in-time manufacturing to ensure we can continually innovate the technology onboard our spacecraft before shipment to the launch site.
• Gossamer-Piccolomini of Lunasonde, a US startup company of Tuscon, AZ. Lunasonde is pioneering subsurface imaging while providing a sustainable approach to resource exploration. Using satellite-based ultra-low frequency radar, Lunasonde makes the underground world visible, fundamentally transforming our understanding of planet Earth. Gossamer-Piccolomini is a 1U CubeSat.
• HYPSO-1, a 6U CubeSat of NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Trondheim, Norway. Its specific mission is to detect and characterize ocean color features such as algal blooms, phytoplankton, river plumes. etc. HYPSO (HYPerspectral Smallsat for Ocean Observation) is flying a HSI (Hyperspectral Imager), a pushbroom instrument with wavelengths of 387–801nm at 3.33 nm bandpass and a swath width of 70 km.
• IRIS-A, a 2U CubeSat of NCKU (National Cheng Kung University) of Tainan, Taiwan. The objective is to demonstrate Internet of Things (IoT) communication technology in space.
• Kepler, a mission of four CubeSats of Kepler Communications, Toronto, Canada, deploying a data relay network.
• LabSat & SW1FT EO mission of SatRevolution, a Polish company.
• Lemur-2, four 3U CubeSats of Spire Global Inc. of San Francisco. Spire Global didn't set out to become a provider of signals intelligence (SIGINT). But with the accidental discovery that its antennas for weather forecasting were also picking up signals being used to jam the Global Positioning System, the pivot just made sense, according to Spire's new-ish head of US government sales, Conor Brown.
• MDASat-1, these are three 3U CubeSats (Maritime Domain Awareness Satellite) of the CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) AIS constellation. The data the mission gathers will typically help the South African government effectively manage the Nation's territorial waters. Additionally, a significant development is that South Africa will possess the home-grown know-how to acquire this vital information.
• NuX-1 (NuSpace Pte. Ltd., Singapore, a 3U CubeSat to provide IoT services.
• OroraTech 1, a 3U CubeSat of OroraTech, a spin-off company of TUM (Technical University of Munich), Germany. The objective is wildfire monitoring.
• STORK-1, -2 CubeSat EO mission of SatRevolution, a Polish company.
• Tevel. The Tevel AMSAT mission consists of eight 1U CubeSats developed by the Herzliya Science Center in Israel, each carrying an FM transponder.
• VZLUSat-2, a 3U CubeSat of the Czech Aerospace Research Centre. The objective is to demonstrate a future Czech satellite constellation.
• FOSSA PocketPOD x 2, a PocketCube dispenser of Fossa Systems, Spain.
• Challenger of Intuidex Inc., Bethlehem, PA, USA. Intuidex a provider of cutting-edge defense software and technology, has teamed with Quub (Mini-Cubes, LLC), a satellite manufacturer, to produce and launch a first-of-its-kind, high functionality, low-cost satellite CubeSat to provide enhanced situational awareness and early warning anomaly detection using sensor data.
• CShark Pilot-1 of Fossa Systms S.L, Spain. The CShark Pilot-1 2P Earth Observation and IoT Satellite testing new low power communication techniques and miniaturized optical systems for remote sensing.
• Delfi-PQ, a 3P PocketQube developed by TU (Technical University) Delft, The Netherlands. DelfiPQ is the start of a iteratively developed line of PocketQubes with the aim to enable new and unforeseen missions with distributed networks of PocketQubes. Delfi-PQ is testing a LOFAR payload and a laser retro reflector.
• EASAT-2, a 1.5P, one of two twin PocketQube satellites from AMSAT-EA.
• FOSSASAT-2E5, 2E6, IoT CubeSats of FOSSA Systems.
• Grizu-263, a CubeSat of the Grizu-263 Space Team of Zonguldak Bülent Ecevit University, Turkey.
• HADES, a 1.5P PocketCube developed by AMSAT-EA (Spain). HADES is also an FM/FSK voice and data repeater for amateur use and carries a SSTV camera module developed and manufactured in the Department of Radioelectronics of the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic.
• LAIKA (FOSSASAT-2E4, FOSSASAT-2B), 2U CubeSats (technology demonstration) of FOSSA Systems.
• MDQube-SAT1, an in-orbit technology demonstration CubeSat of Innova Space, Buenos Aires, Arhentina. The mission launched in Alba Orbital's flight proven AlbaPod to deploy the satellites in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
• PION-BRI, a PocketCube IoT satellite of PionLabs, Sao Paulo, Brazil. The PION-BR1 picosatellite is PION's low-power technology demonstrator as an educational platform.
• SanoSat-1, Nepal-PQ1 is Nepal's first PocketQube picosatellite (5 x 5 x 5 cm) developed by Orion Space. The primary function of the satellite is to collect wind, temperature, and humidity data and communicate findings with ground stations in Nepal. The PocketQube is developed by Orion Space in collaboration with AMSAT-Nepal and AMSAT-EA. The primary payload of SanoSat-1 is a radiation sensor which measures the space radiation.
• SATTLA-2A, 2B. A 2p PocketQube developed by Ariel University (Israel), which will utilize WiFi cards for extreme long-range link applicable to transmit video for over 600 km in LOS conditions.
• Tartan-Artibeus-1 (Unicorn-2TA1), a PocketCube nanosatellite of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. It is the world's first batteryless pocketqube nanosatellite. The mission's goal is to demonstrate the viability of PocketQube-scale nanosatellites that operate reliably without batteries, eliminating the cost and complexity of battery-based power systems in nanosatellites. The sensor-equipped, 5 x 5 x 5 cm cube (1/8 the size of a CubeSat) will sense its environment and perform orbital edge computing to process sensor data in a way that is robust to intermittent operation.
• Unicorn-1, Unicorn-2A & Unicorn-2D. Unicorn-1, is a 2p built in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). Unicorn-2A and 2D are Earth imaging 3p PocketQubes also developed by Alba Orbital UG (Germany). — The cluster includes Turkey's first pico-satellite, Grizu-263a which was designed by a team of engineering students from Zonguldak Bülent Ecevit University and named in honour of the 1992 Kozlu coal mine disaster. The Grizu team are joined by other prestigious universities on the Alba Cluster 3 lineup such as TU Delft and Ariel University. ACME AtronOmatic who flew TRSI-1 on Alba Cluster 2, also joins the Alba Cluster 3 roster as Alba Orbital's first returning launch customer.
• WISeSAT-1 and WISeSAT-2. WISeSat-1 and WISeSAT-2 are 2P PocketCube satellites manufactured by FOSSA Systems for WISeKey. WISeKey International Holding Ltd of Geneva, Switzerland, a leading global cybersecurity, AI, Blockchain and IoT company, today announced the successful launch of its first IoT connectivity satellites aboard SpaceX Transporter-3 rideshare mission. 4)
2) Jeff Foust, "SpaceX launches third dedicated smallsat rideshare mission," SpaceNews, 13 January 2022, URL: https://spacenews.com/spacex-launches-third-dedicated-smallsat-rideshare-mission/
3) Will Marshall, "44 SuperDove Satellites Successfully Launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket," Planet, 13 January 2022, URL: https://www.planet.com/pulse/
4) "WISeKey successfully launched its First IoT Picosatellites WISeSat–1 and WISeSat–2 on January 13th with SpaceX Transporter 3 Rideshare Mission Aboard a Falcon 9 Vehicle," WISeKey, 13 January 2022, URL https://tinyurl.com/2p8nsnta
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).