Atmosphere monitors satellites to cycle on Spaceflight space thatch

Artist’s impression shows one of NASA’s LLITED satellites in orbit. (Photo by The Aerospace Corp.)

Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. says it has won a contract to handle launch logistics for a pair of NASA satellites that will study the factors behind atmospheric drag.

The CubeSats pair for a mission called Low-Latitude / Thermosphere Ionosphere Developments in Density, or LLITED, will be launched into orbit by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket around the end of this year. That launch marks the first use of the Spaceflight Sherpa-LTC orbital propulsion vehicle, also known as OTV or thatched space.

In January, a different type of Spaceflight spacecraft, the Sherpa-FX, successfully launched more than a dozen spacecraft after the launch of Falcon 9. The Sherpa-LTC represents a step above the FX as the its own in-orbit motion system.

The chemical-based thrush system, built for Spaceflight by Benchmark Space Systems, enables the Sherpa-LTC to move between different orbital locations. Spaceflight’s mission plan calls for the first round of satellite deployment, followed by a move set by the Sherpa to deploy the LLITED satellites in a different orbit.

“Spaceflight’s full-service offering with our portfolio of Sherpa OTV vehicles greatly increases the scientific opportunities for NASA, universities, and other organizations that need to deploy to non-traditional destinations,” said Valerie Skarupa, the government’s director of business development for Spaceflight Inc., said in a press release.

Another type of OTV, the Sherpa-LTE, will soon start with an electric transmission system.

Each of the LLITED satellites measures 4 by 4 by 6 inches, not including their solar arrays. The mission team includes scientists and engineers from The Aerospace Corp., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of New Hampshire.

LLITED will study the equatorial temperature and wind irregularities that occur in the neutral atmosphere, at altitudes between 185 to 310 miles (300 to 500 kilometers), as well as the equatorial ionization anomalies that occur occurs in the area of ​​lightning strikes.

“CubeSat’s innovative Aerospace mission measures these two features simultaneously, a major new milestone for on-orbit satellite capability,” said Rebecca Bishop of Aerospace Corp., principal investigator for LLITED.

“By looking more closely at this altitude region, scientists will gain a greater understanding of the rate of change in atmospheric density, which affects the occurrence of slow-moving satellites, as well as reentry rates. , ”Said the Bishop. “Because gravity depends on atmospheric density, understanding regional changes in density can help predict the time and path of re-entry of an object. ”

Spaceflight Inc., which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has been involved in launching nearly 350 satellites over 37 missions on eight different types of launch vehicles. The company plans to handle logistics for about 10 launches this year.

One such publication was made today. Rocket Lab sent seven satellites into low orbit on Earth from their launch site in New Zealand aboard the Electron rocket – and BlackSky 7, the seventh Earth observation satellite in the BlackSky Global constellation is one of the those satellites.

Spaceflight Inc. handles mission management and integration services for BlackSky’s satellite, and that’s not the only connection in the Seattle area: BlackSky (formerly a sister subsidiary of Spaceflight) has offices in Seattle, and the satellite was built at LeoStella factory in Tukwila, Wash. .