Main Engine Cut Off

SpaceX, Arianespace Smallsat Rideshare Flights

A pair of interesting smallsat rideshare announcements this morning: Arianespace announced their first (of many?) direct-to-GEO flight opportunities, and SpaceX began advertising—with pricing—the first 3 annual flights to a 600 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit.

The Arianespace flight is interesting because the small geostationary satellite trend is ramping up, but there haven’t been many flights booked just yet. Seems like Arianespace is betting on a few of those being ready to fly by 2022, and that sounds reasonable to me.

On the SpaceX side, the pricing is fantastic, and the no-delays-plus-rebooking policy is, too:

Dedicated rideshare missions will not be delayed by co-passenger readiness. Passengers who run into delays that prevent them from launching can apply 100% of monies paid towards the cost of rebooking on a subsequent mission. Depending on timing of change rebooking fees may apply.

There’s a lot of talk about how Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, and the like must be bummed to see these types of announcements—big launchers coming into the smallsat territory—but I don’t think that’s true. Dedicated launch will remain uniquely useful, regardless of satellite size.

Spaceflight, on the other hand, might feel differently. After watching SpaceX handle all of the payloads for STP-2 by themselves, they had to start getting nervous.

But on the other hand, after how much of an ordeal SSO-A was earlier this year, I’m not sure Spaceflight is really looking to fly more missions like that in the future, anyway.