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SpaceX Successfully Launches SmallSat Express For Middle East, European, and Asian Customers

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle – Smallsat Express – lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Photograph courtesy of SpaceX.

SpaceX successfully launched its Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission to low-Earth orbit on Monday, 3 December 2018 at 10:34am PST, from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California using a Falcon 9 satellite launch vehicle.

A total of 64 spacecraft from 34 organizations will be launched as part of the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission. The mission signifies Spaceflight’s first dedicated rideshare mission to a sunsynchronous low Earth orbit and represents the company’s effort to accommodate the growing number of domestic, international, government, and commercial customers seeking affordable rideshare options to launch their spacecraft into orbit.

Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express is the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to-date.

The mission placed 15 microsatellites and 49 CubeSats into orbit from commercial and government entities, like universities, startups, and even a middle school. The payloads, which vary from technology demonstrations and imaging satellites to educational research endeavors, are from 17 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, U.K., Germany, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Poland, Canada, Brazil, and India.

Spaceflight also constructed a unique payload stack, which is one of the most complex and intricate endeavours that Spaceflight has undertaken. The small satellites were integrated with a variety of dispensers and avionics to an upper free flyer and lower free flyer.

A series of six deployments occurred approximately 13-43 minutes after liftoff, after which Spaceflight began to command its own deployment sequences. Spaceflight’s deployments occurred over a period of six hours.

This mission also served as the first time SpaceX launched the same booster a third time. Falcon 9’s first stage for the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission previously supported the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission in May 2018 and the Merah Putih mission in August 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

The launch put 15 microsatellites and 49 CubeSats into orbit (a total of 64 payloads), and is believed to have comprised the following satellites from the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East:


ESEO                                              SITAEL                                                                  Italy                     1

EuCropis                                        DLR                                                                        Germany            1

Iceye 2                                            Iceye                                                                       Finland               1

KazSTSat                                       Ghalam LLP                                                         Kazakhstan         1

NextSat-1                                       KAIST                                                                    South Korea       1


AISTECH SAT 2                           AISTech                                                                Spain                     1

Al-Farabi-2                                    Al-Farabi Kazakh National University          Kazakhstan           1

Astrocast-01                                  Astrocast                                                              Switzerland           1

Centauri 1                                      Fleet Space Technologies                                  Australia               1

Eaglet-1                                          OHB Italia S.p.A. and Italian MoD                 Italy                       1

Exseed                                            Exseed Space                                                       India                      1

HIBER-2                                        Hiber/Innovative Solutions in Space            Netherlands          1

ITASAT                                           Instituto Tecnológica de Aeronáutica (ITA) Brazil                     1

JY1SAT                                           Crown Prince Foundation                                 Jordan                  1

K2SAT                                            KAFA (Korean Air Force Academy)                South Korea         1

KazSciSat-1                                    Ghalam LLP                                                         Kazakhstan          1

KnackSat                                        King Mongkut’s U. of Technology                   Thailand               1

MOVE-II                                        Technische University Munich                        Germany               1

PWSat-2                                         Warsaw University of Technology                  Poland                   1

RAAF M1                                        UNSW                                                                   Australia               1

SIRION Pathfinder 2                   Sirion Global Pty Ltd.                                        Australia               1

SNUGLITE                                    Seoul National University                                 South Korea         1

SNUSAT-2                                     Seoul National University                                 South Korea         1

Suomi-100                                     Aalto University Foundation                            Finland                 1

VESTA                                            Honeywell/exactEarth Inc.                              UK/Canada          1

VisionCube                                    Korea Aerospace University                             South Korea         1


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