SpaceX is set to launch a NASA laser satellite, a manufacturing demo in space, and more.

SpaceX appears to be on track to launch its fifth dedicated Falcon 9 flight-sharing mission as early as 2:27 p.m. EDT (18:27 UTC) on Wednesday, May 25, carrying a variety of intriguing payloads into Earth orbit. .

SpaceX has reportedly assigned a Falcon 9 B1061 to the mission, and the Transporter-5 will be the seventh attempted launch and landing since November 2020 and the third launch this year. Although there is no specific outcome, the B1061 will also become the first Falcon 9 booster to launch two Transporter missions after supporting the Transporter-4 less than two months ago. The Falcon 9 is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral SpaceX’s (CCSFS) LC-40 facilities and boost the Transporter-5 payload and upper-atmosphere stage, while the booster will return to the Florida coast. To land on a concrete platform a few miles to the south.

Like the Transporter-4, which launched with only 40 deployable payloads on April 1, the Transporter-5 appears to be another very small flight-sharing mission for SpaceX’s first three launches, demonstrating the company’s continued commitment to operating the service somewhat like a transport general. A public bus will still only carry one passenger – while efficiency, while important, is second only to reliability. For many of SpaceX’s individual Smallsat customers, this may help mitigate some of the downsides of multiple massive satellite ride engagements, which can leave individual customers feeling forgotten and insignificant when they have to swallow delays caused by payloads other than their own.

Based on official information provided by SpaceX on May 24, the Falcon 9 is scheduled to deploy only 39 payloads during Transporter-5. However, the true number of satellites deployed during the mission is likely to be slightly higher because there are three or four different vehicles designed to host or transfer some of these payloads to different orbits. Spaceflight’s “Sherpa-AC1” will not have much thrust but will carry several hosted payloads (“hosted” meaning the payload is not its own free satellite) after the deployment from the Falcon 9.

The other two or three are true Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTVs), which means they have some kind of thrust and are designed to deploy smaller satellites into dedicated orbits. The ultimate goal of many startups trying to develop high-performance OTVs is to extract the best of both worlds from large flight-sharing missions and small rockets, and the combination of extremely cheap prices And Highly optimized orbits for each payload. The Transporter-5 may carry Exolaunch’s “Reliant” OTV (unconfirmed) but is scheduled for a definitive launch with D-Orbit’s “ION SCV-006” OTV and startup OTV from Momentus Space. Vigoride has the unique distinction of being propelled by a first-of-its-kind ‘microwave electrothermal impulse’ that turns water into a superheated plasma thruster.

Vigoride’s first real launch will be treated primarily as a test flight but will also carry up to eight different small satellites. D-Orbit’s ION OTV has one confirmed satellite in its statement but it’s likely to launch with at least a few. Finally, the number of satellites deployed as a result of the Transporter-5 will likely be closer to 50 – a decent improvement over the Transporter-4.

Many of those 50 or so payloads are particularly creative. If Momentus Space’s first Vigoride OTV succeeds, it could pave the way for the best commercial space tug currently available, up to 2,000 meters per second of delta V (dV) – a method for measuring a rocket’s thrust. NASA has also demonstrated its small Terabyte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) demonstration satellite on Transporter-5 and will try to demonstrate that it is possible to use small, high-power lasers as ultra-high-bandwidth downlinks. NASA hopes the small satellite will be able to transmit at up to 200 gigabits per second (Gbps), allowing it to link terabytes of data during a single pass through a ground-based earth station.

AISTECH Space will launch a prototype Earth observation satellite equipped with the first high-resolution thermal imager of its kind. Last but not least, Nanoracks and Maxar are set to launch the first of multiple planned demonstrations and technology maturity missions of their manufacturing and construction technologies in space. The hosted payload is relatively simple by many measures and will only run for about an hour, but it aims to demonstrate the first structural pieces of metal in space.

Parent company Voyager Space ultimately wants to use the experience it gained from the “Outpost Program” to convert the spent rocket’s upper stages into orbital “out spots” that will host customer payloads and support the ongoing development of space harvesting, recycling, construction, and more.

As of 5 a.m. EDT (09:00 UTC), SpaceX has not officially confirmed via a tweet or website update that the Transporter-5 is the “go” for launch. If so, the official webcast available here is likely to start around 2:10 PM EDT (18:10 UTC).

SpaceX is set to launch a NASA laser satellite, a manufacturing demo in space, and more.

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