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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.