Tag Archives: Spaceflight Industries

First images from Pathfinder-1 test smallsat released

The competition heats up: Spaceflight Industries today released the first images taken from its Pathfinder-1 test smallsat.

As I noted when Pathfinder-1 was successfully launched, the success of this private mission is significant. They are demonstrating that a very tiny and inexpensive satellite can do things that in the past required big and expensive satellites.

Pathfinder 1 communications confirmed

The competition heats up: One of the smallsats launched by India’s PSLV rocket this weekend, Pathfinder 1, has successfully begun communicating with the ground as well as transmitting data.

This is a test demonstration flight of this new smallsat Earth observation imaging satellite. As the company notes,

The on-orbit demonstration of the BlackSky Pathfinder spacecraft validates the future vision of real-time global observation and understanding. Specifically, BlackSky’s Pathfinder spacecraft is unique and revolutionary in its size, cost and performance. By comparison, Digital Globe’s WorldView 4 spacecraft — which has truly impressive resolution and spectral diversity — weighs 2,500 kg and costs $750M to put on orbit. Pathfinder represents the pinnacle in rethinking spacecraft design and economics. Our spacecraft, complete with propulsion system and high gain communications, can provide high resolution (1 meter) imagery in a 50 kg package that will fit in a middle seat on a commercial airplane – all for less than $7.5M on orbit. It’s this unique combination of size, cost and performance that enables us to orbit a constellation of 60 spacecraft for less than the cost of a single Digital Globe spacecraft.

As I’ve mentioned several times in the past year, the space industry is diverging into two streams, smallsats for unmanned communications and research satellites, and big spacecraft for human exploration. Tomorrow, Elon Musk will give us his vision of the big spacecraft stream in his much hyped speech at the International Astronautical Congress.

Smallsat company buys its own Falcon 9 rocket to launch 20 satelites

The competition heats up: Spaceflight Industries has purchased a single dedicated Falcon 9 rocket launch to launch 20 small satellites sometime in 2017.

Buying a dedicated launch, rather that seeking excess capacity on other launches, provides Spaceflight with more than just additional payload capacity. Secondary or “rideshare” payloads are subject to the schedule of the primary capability, and can be bumped off the launch if the mass of the primary payload grows. With a dedicated mission, Spaceflight is in greater control. “It helps us establish a regular cadence of launches,” Blake said. “We can book all kinds of rideshare passengers onto something that is going to be there at a certain time to a certain orbit.”

This purchase also indicates the growing strength of the smallsat industry. These companies are beginning to gain the investment capital to buy their own launches rather than fly as secondary payloads.