Spaceflight successfully deploys Planet Labs Dove spacecraft
Spaceflight Inc., the company reinventing the model for launching small satellites into space, has successfully deployed 11 Planet Labs Dove earth-imaging spacecraft from an International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras-operated Dnepr launch vehicle.
“SmallSat constellations are a critical, growing piece of the space economy,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight. “We are thrilled to expand our launch heritage with Planet Labs and ISC Kosmotras to enable the cost-effective and timely launch of small satellites.”
Spaceflight previously deployed Planet Labs’ Dove 1 and 2 satellites in April 2013 from an Orbital Sciences’ Antares launch vehicle, as well as its Flock 1 constellation from the International Space Station in January 2014 with partner NanoRacks. Spaceflight then arranged for the launch of 11 more Dove spacecraft from the Dnepr vehicle through partner Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS). The additional 11 CubeSats will complement the existing Planet Labs constellation of 3U imaging spacecraft.
Using its expertise in navigating International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and export law and in the most recent export challenges around shipping ITAR-controlled hardware to Russia, Spaceflight arranged for Planet Labs’ U.S. payload to be exported to Russia for launch integration. On June 19, 2014 at 19:11 UTC the Dnepr launch vehicle sprang out of its underground transport and launch canister, and roared through the atmosphere using its RD-264 first-stage engine. All 11 Dove spacecraft were successfully deployed roughly 30 minutes after first-stage ignition.
“We are excited to launch 11 more satellites, bringing the total number of Dove satellites launched to 43,” said Mike Safyan, director of launch and regulatory at Planet Labs. “Through our unique approach to satellite design and frequency of launch, the satellites in orbit continue to get better and better.”
Spaceflight has launched 47 satellites over a year and a half period, helping grow the burgeoning smallsat industry. Spaceflight’s next launch is scheduled for early July 2014 onboard Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus Orb-2 mission.