During the 36th Space Symposium being held this week, Spaceflight Inc., the leading global launch services provider, announced it achieved 100% mission success for both its primary and secondary missions for SXRS-5, including the commissioning and successful firing of Astra’s Apollo Fusion electric propulsion system to enable orbital transfers. The mission, which launched on June 30 aboard SpaceX’s Transporter-2 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, featured two of the company’s innovative next-generation Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) — Sherpa-LTE1 and Sherpa-FX2.
For the primary mission, the avionics systems on the two OTVs were tasked with separating 35 payloads, including six microsatellites and 29 cubesats, with a hosted payload remaining on board. Following the successful deployment of all customer spacecraft, Sherpa-LTE1 initiated the mission’s second objective, ensuring all systems were operational and in good health, as well as commissioning the propulsion system for additional orbital maneuvers. All the data collected from these experiments will provide valuable insights before Sherpa-LTC1, Spaceflight’s first chemical propulsion OTV, launches on board SpaceX’s Transporter-3 mission, targeted for no earlier than December 2021.
Spaceflight successfully completed all of its identified mission goals over the past eight weeks. Milestones accomplished include:
“The success of this mission has exceeded our expectations, an indication the technology we designed will be effective in executing a wide variety of missions,” said Phil Bracken, VP of engineering for Spaceflight. “With its versatility and modular architecture, Sherpa will be capable of not only deploying satellites, but hosting them on orbit, supporting infrastructure development, using various kinds of propulsion — all at unmatched development speeds. We are excited to continue building on the success of SXRS-5 and innovating new ways to utilize Sherpa to support our customers’ missions.”
As the only company to have successfully flown three OTVs in six months, including the industry’s first electrical propulsion version, Spaceflight has plans to launch two more later this year, including its first chemical propulsion vehicle, Sherpa-LTC. Building on the success of these Sherpa missions and the company’s experience managing 41 missions to date, Spaceflight is actively planning Sherpa missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) to GEO and cislunar orbital insertions.
“The successes of Sherpa-LTE1, and the promise of Sherpa-LTC, demonstrate the capabilities of our groundbreaking innovations to take spacecraft to any orbit — from LEO, medium Earth orbit, geostationary orbit, lunar or beyond, in a way that has never been accomplished before,” said Grant Bonin, SVP of business development at Spaceflight. “We are committed to the overall development of space and our Sherpa program is a significant component of our vision to offer the most comprehensive launch solutions to get our customers’ payloads to space — whenever and wherever they want.”
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