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Spaceflight, BlackSky and SpaceX gear up for a new chapter in satellite launch saga

17 Nov 2018, 18:00 UTC
Spaceflight, BlackSky and SpaceX gear up for a new chapter in satellite launch saga
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Spaceflight mission managers rehearse CubeSat integration into one of the flight dispensers that will be used during the SmallSat Express mission. (Spaceflight Photo)
There’s a grand convergence coming Monday for the two subsidiaries of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries.
Spaceflight, which handles launch logistics for small satellites, is gearing up for its most ambitious mission yet: the “dedicated rideshare” launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will deliver at least 64 satellites to a pole-to-pole, sun-synchronous orbit.
The SSO-A mission, also known as the SmallSat Express, is due for liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California anytime between 10:31 and 11 a.m. PT Monday. Among the dozens of payloads on SSO-A will be the first satellite designed for what’s expected to be a constellation of Earth-watching spacecraft for BlackSky, Spaceflight Industries’ other subsidiary.
BlackSky already has one prototype satellite in space, known as Pathfinder-1, and the venture also markets multispectral imagery from a squadron of other companies’ satellites. But its Global-class satellites will kick things up a notch in terms of image resolution as well as near-real-time delivery of on-demand imagery.
This mission is also a milestone for SpaceX. The upgraded Block 5 first-stage booster destined for Monday’s launch has ...

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