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Launcher’s first Orbiter transfer vehicle completes vibration test

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Launcher, the space logistics company focused on providing access to anywhere in space at the lowest cost, successfully completed vibration testing for the first flight unit of its satellite transfer vehicle and hosted payload platform Orbiter.

Orbiter’s first mission, SN1, is scheduled to launch November 7th, 2022 on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Transporter-6 rideshare flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Launcher’s SN1 mission will transport payload from ten commercial, research and academic customers.

[To learn more about Launcher’s additive manufacturing strategy and production timeline, listen to the 3dpbm Pulse Podcast episode with Launcher Head of Manufacturing, Tim Berry, below]

On SpaceX Transporter flights, the Orbiter transfer vehicle can carry up to 400 kg of payload mass in the form of small and cube satellites. Additionally, Orbiter can support components and payloads by providing power, communications, and other commodities. Orbiter is equipped with a chemical propulsion system that uses ethane and nitrous oxide propellants, and the vehicle will initially provide up to 500 meters per second of delta-v or change in velocity. Orbiter is designed to integrate with SpaceX Transporter 24-inch ports and maximize the available volume to its customer payload.

Orbiter provides unique value to its customers by allowing them to quickly reach rideshare orbits and then precisely insert each spacecraft into its proper mission orbit in the most efficient way possible. The delta-v provided by Orbiter can be used to adjust altitude, inclination, and LTDN (Local Time of Descending Node) as well as local anomaly tailoring to distribute small spacecraft quickly and evenly along an entire orbital plane.

Launcher’s first Orbiter transfer vehicle successfully completes vibration test,  along with hosted payload platform
Photo: Orbiter SN1 in the Launcher HQ clean room after vibration testing. (Launcher/John Kraus)

Given the low additional cost for Orbiter above the SpaceX rideshare price, delta-v can be imparted to each customer spacecraft at a lower cost than implementing or expanding spacecraft resident propulsion systems. This lowers the overall capital cost of each spacecraft and extends its lifetime by maximizing the propellant remaining after reaching its proper mission orbit.

When Orbiter completes its transfer mission, the platform will continue to host components and payloads for up to two years. This enables both early-stage and mature space companies to increase the heritage and technology readiness of their payload or components without the added cost of a dedicated spacecraft and ground operations infrastructure. Using the shared resources available from Orbiter, these services are provided in a more efficient manner.

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