Sunday, April 7, 2024

SpaceX Premiers a New Rideshare Mission

This evening near sunset SpaceX flew the first mission of their new rideshare platform called Bandwagon from the Kennedy Space Center, Pad 39A. 

SpaceX isn't new to the ridesharing market, having launched 10 previous rideshare missions with their Transporter platform, the most recent of which lifted off last month. The first and most memorable Transporter mission launched in January 2021 and delivered 143 satellites to orbit, a single-flight record that still stands today. I found that 2021 date surprising. It doesn't seem like three years ago.

The Transporter platform provides launches to sun-synchronous orbits, which are polar orbits that go over the same places on Earth at the same time every day so that the angle of sun and lighting is the same every day - but not every customer wants to launch to an SSO. It should be mentioned that the term polar orbit doesn't require the satellite go precisely over the north and south poles; deviations to 20 or 30 degrees are acceptable.  Enter bandwagon, which flies to the second most requested orbit, at inclinations of up to approximately 45 degrees and satellites at altitudes of 550 to 605 kilometers. 

The major customer on this mission was the government of South Korea, which launched its Project 425 SAR synthetic aperture radar satellite on the mission, according to Spaceflight Now, and requested SpaceX not show their satellites during the launch coverage.

"On board this mission are 11 spacecraft including KOREA's 425Sat, HawkEye 360's Clusters 8 & 9, Tyvak International’s CENTAURI-6, iQPS's QPS-SAR-7 TSUKUYOMI-II, Capella Space's Capella-14, and Tata Advanced Systems Limited’s TSAT-1A," SpaceX wrote in a mission description.

Transporter missions aren't going away, this just adds another option to get to space. SpaceX's rideshare website shows the two platforms alternating from this point on. 

The only prices to obit I could find mentioned Transporter, so I don't know if Bandwagon launches will cost the same. That number is $5500/kg (= $2500/lb), but said to be going up $500/kg per year - 9% - which is less than everything else is going up due to Bidenflation.  

Liftoff at 7:16PM EDT. SpaceX video screen capture.


  1. Wait'll the Starship gets going and is reliable. Clamshell opens and all KINDS of stuff spews out!!

    Seriously, there's going to be a LOT of inflatable orbital modules going up in Starship. Just to name a few...

  2. Visibility for the launch was excellent! I easily followed the booster back to its approach to LZ-1, although the actual landing isn't visible from here.

    1. Sounds great. From about 35 miles S, with the trajectory to the NE, I lost it visually right around MECO. Just enough thin, high level clouds to not see the second stage burn at all. I've seen the booster returns on a couple of launches more southerly.

  3. I had no interest in South Korea's 'Project 425 SAR synthetic aperture radar satellites' until I read that South Korea didn't want them shown. Now I gotta see if I can find a pic.