Jan 25, 2021

Whose satellites did SpaceX launch in world record flight?

SpaceX
satellite
Transporter-1
William Smith
2 min
SpaceX, Planet and PhaseFour all hitched a ride to orbit on the Transporter-1 rideshare
SpaceX, Planet and PhaseFour all hitched a ride to orbit on the Transporter-1 rideshare...

US space company SpaceX has smashed the record for number of satellites launched on a single flight.

Its Transporter-1 mission, which launched yesterday, beat the previous record of 108 satellites launched by Northrop Grumman in 2018, as well as its own previou record of 64, with a total 143 satellites and payloads on board.

Making space accessible

The launch was part of the company’s SmallSat Rideshare Program, which boasts launch costs as low as $1mn to launch 200kg to orbit.

Such capabilities are opening up the frontier of space to much smaller businesses, which previously had little hope of overcoming the huge costs involved. 

Whose satellites were aboard?

SpaceX

Reportedly, SpaceX itself had 10 satellites on board, all intended as part of the Starlink telecommunications constellation. The project was first announced back in 2015, with the aim of providing affordable internet to the entire world. A total 30,000 satellites are envisioned as part of the constellation.

Planet

San Francisco-based satellite firm Planet took up the most slots with 48 in total, its sixth launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9. The SuperDove model satellites take high resolution images of the earth’s surface. The latest additions to the fleet improve image sharpness and quality, while adding new spectral bands at a 3-5m resolution globally.

PhaseFour

Phase Four had two satellites powered by its Maxwell plasma propulsion engines on board the flight, allowing them to maneuver into optimal positions for earth imaging data. In a press release, Beau Jarvis, Phase Four CEO, said: "We developed the Maxwell plasma propulsion engine to provide small satellites with an optimal level of thrust and efficiency in a lightweight, space-saving design that hasn't existed before. As a result, we're seeing pent up demand for compact, high-performing satellite propulsion systems that have put us on track to deliver several Maxwell units to customers launching satellites in each quarter of 2021 and into 2022."

(Image: SpaceX)

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May 14, 2021

Dark Wolf: accelerating security for USAF

U.S Air Force
Dark Wolf Solutions
2 min
Dark Wolf Solutions is small and agile, its partnership with the US Air Force is helping to deliver critical security faster and better than ever before

As a small company whose biggest customers are the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Dark Wolf Solutions (Dark Wolf) is a triple-threat, specializing in Cybersecurity, Software and DevOps, and Management Solutions. Dark Wolf secures and tests cloud platforms, develops and deploys applications, and offers consultancy services performing system engineering, system integration, and mission support.

The break for Dark Wolf came when the Department of Defense decided to explore software factories. Rick Tossavainen, Dark Wolf’s CEO, thinks it was an inspired path for the DoD to take. “It was a really great decision,” he says, “Let’s pull our people together as part of this digital transformation and recreate what Silicon Valley startup firms typically have. Let’s get into commercial facilities where we have open windows and big whiteboards and just promote ideation and collaboration. And it creates this collaborative environment where people start creating things much more rapidly than before.”

It has been, Tossavainen says, “amazing to watch” and has energized the Federal Contracting Sector with an influx of new talent and improved working environments that foster creativity and innovative ways of approaching traditional problems.

“We originally started working with the US Air Force about three years ago. The problem was at the time you could develop all the software you wanted but you couldn’t get it into production – you had to go through the traditional assessment and authorization process. I talked to Lauren Knausenberger and she told me about Kessel Run and what eventually came out of this was the DoD’s first continuous ATO [Authority To Operate].”

The secret to Dark Wolf’s success – and its partnerships with USAF and Space Force – lies in a client-first attitude. “We’re not looking to maximise revenue,” Tossavainen explains. “We tell all of our employees, if you’re ever faced with an issue and you don’t know how to resolve it, and one solution is better for the customer and the second is better for Dark Wolf, you always do number one. We’ve just got to take care of our customers, and I look for other partners that want to do that. And let’s work together so that we can bring them the best answer we can.”

Rapid releases and constant evolution of software are common themes among USAF’s partners. Like many firms operating in the commercial and public sector spaces, Dark Wolf leads with a DevSecOps approach.

“Failure is tolerated,” says Tossavainen. “If it’s not going the right way in three months, let’s adjust. Let’s rapidly change course. And you can tell really quickly if something’s going to be successful or not, because they’re doing deployments multiple times a day – to the customer.”

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