SpaceX is poised to launch Falcon 9 into orbit tomorrow morning with 114 payloads for the sixth mission of its small sat rideshare program. But while rocket companies now have a lot of launch experience, SpaceX just finished his record year of 61 launches in 2022 alone, but for a handful of space startups, Transporter-6 is a landmark event.
Launcher CEO Max Haot told TechCrunch that the company realized there was a huge market opportunity to develop space tugs after SpaceX launched its rideshare program. A Launcher tug called Orbiter deploys or hosts payloads for 10 individual customers. The company also develops small rockets. Orbiter will be its third stage.
Space tugs fill a market segment for customers who need a specific trajectory but want to pay less than the cost of a dedicated rocket launch, Haot said.
“If you want a specific orbit at a higher price, you always need a dedicated rocket in the end. So it really helps make these rideshare flights more convenient,” he said.
Launcher isn’t the only company eyeing the emerging space tag market. Epic Aerospace, which calls itself a space transportation network company, will also launch his Transporter-6 tugboat for the first time. Space services companies Momentus, D-Orbit and Exolaunch will also deploy or host satellites for their customers on the mission.
While the space tag market may already appear to be crowded with players, the final winner is still to be determined, according to Haot.
“If you look at the press, it seems like a lot of companies are building space tugs. no one yet,” he said.
UK-based startup Magdrive, which is developing high-thrust spacecraft propulsion engines, will also go to space for the first time to demonstrate its orbital technology. The prototype propulsion system takes power from an on-board solar panel, stores it, and discharges it at various power levels.
“The mission will last 12 months, but we aim to try as many charging and discharging options as possible so that we can get as much data as possible,” Magdrive CEO Mark Stokes told TechCrunch.
Transporter 6 is scheduled to take off from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral at 9:56 AM EST. This will be her 15th flight of the Falcon 9 booster called B1060. Transporter-6 will also carry Planet Labs and Spire Global satellites and other payloads for scientific, research and commercial customers.
The launch will be streamed live on SpaceX’s website.