SpaceX Announce Dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program

SpaceX has announced a new dedicated SmallSat rideshare service.
A Falcon 9 is prepared for the launch of three RADARSAT Earth observation satellites at Vandenberg Air Force Base in June 2019 | Image credit: SpaceX

SpaceX has announced a dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program that will allow customers to launch payloads of up to 150 kilograms into a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) for as little as $2.25 million.

SpaceX announced it will begin to perform regular dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare missions between late 2020 and early 2021. The cost of launching aboard these missions will be dependent on the ESPA port size (a standardized small satellite ring used to attach the payload to a dispenser) selected and when a customer books a launch.

Customers have the option to select between a 15” and a 24” ESPA port. If a customer books at least 12 months in advance, the 15” port will cost $2.5 million for payloads of up to 150 kilograms and $4.5 million for the larger 24” port. If a customer books between 6 and 12 months in advance, the cost for each port increases to $3 million and $6 million respectively. Customers can also select to exceed the 150-kilogram limit at a cost of $15,000 a kilogram.

In addition to the standard 15” and 24” ports, SpaceX has also indicated that a larger single slot at the top of the dispenser stack will be available for larger spacecraft. The cost of this larger port has however not yet been revealed with customers being prompted to contact the launch provider for pricing.

If SpaceX retains this pricing scheme, it will likely undercut much of the SmallSat launch market by a significant margin. Rocket Lab, for instance, currently offers SmallSat launch services at a cost of around $6 million to deploy a 150-kilogram payload into a sun-synchronous orbit.

The first SpaceX SmallSat Rideshare Program mission is expected to be launched between November 2020 and March 2021 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX has also confirmed two addition rideshare missions will be launched in the first quarters of 2022 and 2023.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.