Resources | Secondary Payload Basics

Spaceflight History

Spaceflight, Inc. (Spaceflight) was founded in 2009 to provide launch services for small and secondary payloads using the excess capacity of large launch vehicles. Spaceflight has focused on three guiding business principles:

  • Standardized interfaces to facilitate quick and routine payload integration
  • Commercial pricing
  • Frequent flight opportunities to create a “pipeline” for the launch of small and secondary payloads

Selecting A Ride

Whether you prefer a U.S., European, or Russian launch, Spaceflight, through our global network of launch service providers, will assist you in finding the launch which best suits your schedule, budget and optimum orbit.  Spaceflight provides routine flight opportunities using our network of Launch Services Providers including SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, ISC Kosmotras, Roscosmos.  For planning purposes you can check out list pricing and available launches on our website. If you need a quote for mission planning, just ask – we will be happy to provide one.

Contact us by phone or through the Request a Quote form on our website and we will contact you to discuss your mission options. After you select a launch, Spaceflight we will take you through the launch service agreement, a basic statement of work, and sign a contract that assigns your payload to space on an upcoming launch. Signing the contract allows us to begin the government licensing process, to procure flight support hardware with long lead times, and to commence mission and analytical integration activities in preparation for the mission.

Contracting for a Launch

Spaceflight has simplified the process of procuring launch services for your small spacecraft or hosted payload by establishing a common contract template with standard terms and conditions that applies for launch on all launch vehicles.  Spaceflight in turn has agreements with multiple launch services providers that allow us to aggregate and integrate multiple spacecraft into a single discreet system by which we fly your spacecraft.  Further, Spaceflight works with you and has established processes for importing / exporting payloads and support equipment as well as complying with all ITAR, FCC and other Government regulations.  As a result, we eliminate the need for you to interface with multiple launch organizations and provide a partner for navigating the regulatory hurdles required to get your payload flown to space.

Mission Management

After a contract is signed, a dedicated Spaceflight Mission Manager is assigned to your payload. You will be asked to complete a customer payload questionnaire to better assist your mission manager in building a mission schedule and spacecraft integration.  Spaceflight will certify the secondary payload meets the launch service provider requirements. You will provide evidence the payload meets the minimum test thresholds in a number of categories, including acoustic, vibe and thermal. We will conduct a coupled loads analysis on all secondary payloads mated to the Spaceflight Secondary Payload System (SSPS), create an interface control document, obtain (with your assistance) the necessary permits including export licenses, if applicable, FCC license, etc.), and physically integrate the secondary payload to the SSPS, and then onto the launch vehicle.

Payload Integration

To simplify spacecraft integration time and cost, Spaceflight has developed a range of standard payload interfaces leveraging industry proven approaches such as Lightband adapters and containerized CubeSat dispensers.  Depending on the manifest and launch vehicle, multiple spacecraft can be integrated into a single discrete unit, leveraging items such as the Spaceflight Secondary Payload System (SSPS) or SHERPA in-space tug, for easy integration with the launch vehicle.  A list of our standard interfaces can be found in the Spaceflight Payload User’s Guide.

For each mission, Spaceflight will integrate one or more secondary spacecraft into a single discrete unit to simplify certification for flight and integration with the launch vehicle. To do this, Spaceflight, working with its partner Andrews Space has developed the Spaceflight Secondary Payload System (SSPS) as a standard small / secondary payload accommodation system.

The SSPS has at its core a Moog/CSA Engineering ring which features five 61 cm (24 inch) diameter ports, each capable of carrying payloads weighing up to 300 kg. The SSPS provides two common mechanical interfaces (top and bottom) and rides between the launch vehicle upper stage and primary payload, which sits above the SSPS.  Larger “ESPA”-class secondary payloads can be attached directly to the SSPS ring in a cantilevered fashion via a 24-inch-class separation system, or a smaller separation system via a conical adapter. Alternatively, Spaceflight, working with Andrews, has developed a series of standard adapters and “shelves” that can be located on each of the five ports to accommodate a wide range of secondary payload sizes, interfaces and launch orientations. These shelves can be covered for security or ITAR compliance.

Launch Operations

All secondary payloads are launched unpowered.  While launch service providers vary in their pre-launch payload access rules, we strive to get you access to your payloads until the last possible minute, for both battery recharging and payload monitoring. Through our launch service providers, Spaceflight will assist in making arrangements so a number of your guests can view the launch (physically present at the launch location or virtually on the net). Upon launch, Spaceflight provides confirmation of payload deployment.

On-Orbit Operations

After secondary payload deployment, satellite communication telemetry is the responsibility of the customer. If a customer purchases hosted payload capability using SHERPA, Spaceflight will provide ground station support and services as required and agreed upon with the the customer.

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