Transporter-2 | Falcon 9 Block 5

Lift Off Time
June 30 2021 – 19:11 UTC | 15:11 EDT
Mission Name
Transporter-2, the second dedicated SpaceX rideshare mission
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
SpaceX
Customer
(Who paid for this?)
Spaceflight, Exolaunch, D-Orbit, SpaceX and others
Rocket
Falcon 9 Block 5 B1060-8; 62 day turn around
Launch Location
Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA
Payload mass
Unknown, no more than ~11,000 kg
Where did the satellites go?
~540 km Sun-Synchronous Orbit
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Yes
Where did the first stage land?
B1060-8 successfully landed on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1)
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
Yes, Hos Briarwood attempted fairing recovery from the water ~605 km downrange; outcome TBD
Were the fairings new?
The active and passive fairing halves had both previously supported 2 missions; 108 and 146 day turnaround time, respectively

Both fairing halves used the relocated vent location
This was the:
– 123rd Falcon 9 launch
– 64th Falcon 9 flight with a flight proven booster
– 68th re-flight of a booster

4th 8th flight of a booster
– 19th re-flight of a booster in 2021
– 89th booster landing

– 32nd and 33rd reuse of a fairing half
– 20th launch for SpaceX in 2021
– 74th SpaceX launch from SLC-40

61st orbital launch attempt of 2021
(59th successful launch)
Where to watch
Official replay

How did it go?

SpaceX successfully launched 88 satellites into a Sun-Synchronous orbit on their second dedicated rideshare mission, Transporter-2. The Falcon 9 Block 5 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida, USA. Roughly 8 minutes after launch, the first stage successfully performed a return to launch site (RTLS) landing, and softly touched down on Landing Zone 1.

Transporter-2 Mission

SHERPA-FX

For the third time, Falcon 9 flew with a third stage on the Transporter-2 mission. The third “transfer” stage, the SHERPA-FX, is a satellite dispenser designed by Spaceflight to deploy secondary payloads. This ensures that other payloads cannot interfere with communications to the satellite after launch. This was a problem on the SSO-A mission, where many satellite providers could not communicate with their satellites after deployment, as they were too close together. While the SHERPA-FX does not have any on-board propulsion, it is the first of several models of SHERPA. Other versions have a monopropellent to boost payloads into different orbits.

The SHERPA-FX has previously flown on the SSO-A and Transporter-1 missions.

Transporter-2 payload
The SHERPA-FX (Credit: Spaceflight)

Falcon 9’s second stage deployed SHERPA-FX like any other payload. After separation, the transfer stage coasted, distancing itself from the Falcon 9 second stage and then deployed its payloads, while four of them stay attached. During this, the stage continued providing attitude control, telemetry, and communications to the satellites and the ground.

The primary purpose of SHEPRA on this mission was to ensure that unlike on SSO-A, all the small sats are able to be communicated with after reaching orbit. On Transporter-2, there are just under 25 payloads riding on SHERPA. These payloads include Astrocast, LEMUR, HawkEye Cluster 3, Lynk-06, SpaceBee, PAINANI-2, and TagSat-2.

SHERPA-LTE1

In addition to the SHERPA-FX transfer stage, the SHERPA-LTE1 also flew on the Transporter-2 mission. The LTE1 serves a similar purpose to the FX; however, unlike the SHERPA-FX the stage has its own propulsion system. The stage is equipped with a Xenon ion thruster, which is used to bring the satellites to a different orbit. Transporter-2 marked the first use of the SHERPA-LTE transfer stage, and can carry up to 14 satellites.

The SHERPA-LTE1 was deployed from the second stage like any other payload. On this mission it carried the Shasta, Faraday Phoenix, Tiger-2, ARTHUR-1, LEMUR, Polar Vigilance KSF1, and Tenzing satellites.

Other Payloads

On the Transporter-2 mission, Exolaunch also launched roughly 30 satellites. These payloads include YAM-3, TUBIN, D-2/AtlaCom-1, XR-2, and ICEYE.

Furthermore, D-Orbit launched the Neptuno, Spartan, QMR-KWT, W-Cube, Ghalib, NAPA 2 / RTAF-SAT 2, ADEO, LaserCub, Nebula, and Worldfloods payloads.

SpaceX also launched 3 Starlink satellites, which were equipped with inter-satellite laser communication links.

LEMUR

Nanoracks launched 3 LEMUR satellites on Transporter-2. The LEMUR constellation is an Earth observation and traffic monitoring constellation built and operated by Spire. The satellites are able to use GPS signal occultation to measure pressure, humidity, and temperature. LEMUR is used to monitor trade, prevent piracy, track assets, assist in search and rescue operations, and help prevent illegal fishing.

LEMUR-2 satellite on Transporter-2
A LEMUR-2 satellite (Credit: Global)

SpaceBees

The SpaceBee constellation is a satellite constellation with the goal of demonstrating two-way communication between cheap and low-data satellites. The satellites will help provide affordable internet in hard to reach parts of the world that do not yet have reliable access.

SpaceBEE satellites, of which some are flying on the Transporter-2 mission
5 SpaceBEE satellites (Credit: Swarm Technologies)

Astrocast’s IoT satellite

Astrocast launched five internet of things (IoT) nanosatellites into its constellation on the Transporter-2 mission. These satellites will increase the capacity of the constellation, which enables companies to track IoT products in remote regions of the globe.

ARTHUR-1

Aerspacelab’s ARTHUR-1 satellite is a risk reduction satellite meant to demonstrate Aerospacelab’s ability to maneuver a high resolution optical payload in orbit. The ARTHUR-1 satellite will also provide flight heritage to the company and serve as a stepping stone for future payloads.

Cluster 3

HawkEye’s 360’s Cluster 3 is an expansion on HawkEye’s 360 next-generation satellite constellation. The HawkEye constellation detects and locates radio signals and uses Fourier transformations to mathematically decompose a signal into its fundamental sinusoidal waves. This information is then used for maritime domain awareness, national security, and environmental protection.

TIGER 5G IoT

OQ Technology launched the TIGER-2 mission, which is their second mission aiming to provide global 5G internet of things connectivity. This consists of two payloads: a low frequency satellite to provide machine-to-machine services and a higher frequency radio link demonstration satellite.

SpaceX launching the GPS III SV03 satellite (Credit: SpaceX)

What is Falcon 9 Block 5?

The Falcon 9 Block 5 is SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle. The vehicle consists of a reusable first stage, an expendable second stage, and, when in payload configuration, a pair of reusable fairing halves.

First Stage

The Falcon 9 first stage contains 9 Merlin 1D+ sea level engines. Each engine uses an open gas generator cycle and runs on RP-1 and liquid oxygen (LOx). Each engine produces 845 kN of thrust at sea level, with a specific impulse (ISP) of 285 seconds, and 934 kN in a vacuum with an ISP of 313 seconds. Due to the powerful nature of the engine, and the large amount of them, the Falcon 9 first stage is able to lose an engine right off the pad, or up to two later in flight, and be able to successfully place the payload into orbit.

The Merlin engines are ignited by TEA-TEB. During static fire and launch the TEA-TEB is provided by the ground service equipment. However, as the Falcon 9 first stage is able to propulsively land three of the Merlin engines (E1, E5, and E9) contain TEA-TEB canisters to relight for the boost back, reentry, and landing burns.

Second Stage

The Falcon 9 second stage is the only expendable part of the Falcon 9. It contains a singular MVacD engine that produces 981 kN of thrust and an ISP of 348 seconds. The second stage is capable of doing several burns, allowing the Falcon 9 to put payloads in several different orbits.

For missions with many burns and/or long coasts between burns, the second stage is able to be equipped with a mission extension package. When the second stage has this package it has a grey strip, which helps keep the RP-1 warm, an increased number of COPVs for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB.

Falcon 9 Block 5 launching on the Starlink V1.0 L27 mission (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 Booster B1060

The booster that supported the Transporter-2 mission is B1060. B1060 had previously supported 7 missions; as this was the booster’s eighth flight, its designation was B1060-8.

B1060’s missionsLaunch Date (UTC)Turn Around Time (Days)
GPS III SV03June 30, 2020N/A
Starlink V1.0 L11September 3, 202065
Starlink V1.0 L14October 24, 202051
Türksat-5AJanuary 8, 202176
Starlink V1.0 L18February 4, 202127
Starlink V1.0 L22March 24, 202148
Starlink V1.0 L24April 29, 202136
Transporter-2June 25, 202162

Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 conducted three burns. These burns softly touched down the booster on SpaceX’s Landing Zone-1 (LZ-1).

Falcon 9 Landing on Landing Zone 4 on the Sentinel-6 mission (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 Fairings

The Falcon 9’s fairing consists of two dissimilar reusable halves. The first half (the half that faces away from the transport erector) is called the active half, and houses the pneumatics for the separation system. The other fairing half is called the passive half. As the name implies, this half plays a purely passive role in the fairing separation process, as it relies on the pneumatics from the active half.

Both fairing halves are equipped with cold gas thrusters and a parafoil which are used to softly touch down the fairing half in the ocean. SpaceX used to attempt to catch the fairing halves in nets on GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief. However, at the end of 2020 this program was canceled due to safety risks and a low success rate. On Transporter-2, SpaceX attempted to recover both of the fairing halves from the water with their recovery vessel Hos Briarwood.

SpaceX is currently flying two slightly different versions of the Falcon 9 fairing. The new “upgraded” version has vents only at the top of each fairing half, by the gap between the halves, whereas the old version had vents placed spread equidistantly around the base of the fairing. Moving the vents decreases the chance of water getting into the fairing, making the chance of a successful scoop significantly higher.

Transporter-2 Full Mission Profile

Hr/Min/Sec              Event

00:38:00SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
00:35:00RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
00:35:001st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
00:16:002nd stage LOX loading underway
00:07:00Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
00:01:00Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
00:01:00Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
00:00:45SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
00:00:03Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00Falcon 9 liftoff

Transporter-2 Launch, Landing, and Satellite Deployment*

00:01:12Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:151st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:181st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:262nd stage engine starts
00:02:32Boostback burn begins
00:03:42Fairing deployment
00:06:341st stage entry burn begins
00:08:242nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:08:241st stage landing
00:54:132nd stage engine restarts
00:54:152nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
00:57:50NASA’s PACE-1 deploys
00:57:57Satellogic’s NewSat-19 deploys
00:58:04The 1st ICEYE satellite deploys from EXOPort-5
00:58:32NASA’s TROPICS Pathfinder deploys
00:58:37PlanetiQ’s GNOMES-2 deploys
00:58:44Tyvak-0173 deploys
00:59:47The 2nd ICEYE satellite deploys from EXOPort-3
01:00:00Tyvak-0211 deploys
01:00:08Loft Orbital’s YAM-3 deploys from EXOPort-5
01:00:18TU Berlin’s TUBIN deploys from EXOPort-4
01:00:23UmbraSAR deploys
01:00:33D-Orbit’s ION satellite carrier deploys
01:01:50Space Development Agency/General Atomics/Peraton’s LINCS-2 deploys
01:02:16Satellogic’s NewSat-20 deploys
01:02:30Satellogic’s NewSat-21 deploys
01:02:40Capella SAR satellite deploys
01:02:46The 3rd ICEYE satellite deploys from EXOPort-4
01:04:12Space Development Agency/General Atomics/Peraton’s LINCS-1 deploys
01:04:29DARPA/Space Development Agency/Air Force Research Laboratory’s Mandrake-2 Able deploys
01:05:33The 4th ICEYE satellite deploys from EXOPort-3
01:06:48Swarm’s 1st SpaceBEE cluster deploys from EXOPort-4
01:07:10Swarm’s 2nd SpaceBEE cluster deploys from EXOPort-4
01:07:17NanoAvionics’ D2/AtlaCom-1 deploys from EXOPort-3
01:07:24Spire’s LEMUR number 1 deploys from EXOPort-3
01:07:47Satellogic’s NewSat-22 deploys
01:07:56Loft Orbital’s YAM-2 deploys
01:09:51Spires’s LEMUR number 2 deploys from EXOPort-3
01:09:58DARPA/Space Development Agency/Air Force Research Laboratory’s Mandrake-2 Baker deploys
01:21:10Spaceflight Inc.’s Sherpa-FX2 deploys
01:21:14Spaceflight Inc.’s Sherpa-LTE1 deploys
01:27:35Starlink satellites deploy

* All times are approximate

4 comments
  1. What’s the duration of the stage 1 boost back burn? I don’t see any indication of burn cut-off before the initial landing burn.

    1. There are three distinct main engine burns in the video:

      The boost back burn starts shortly after T+2:31 (my vision is obscured) and lasts less than a minute, ending at T+3:26.

      The entry burn starts at T+6:46, they announce shutdown at T+7:08, and the fire is out at T+7:10.

      The landing burn starts at T+7:53 and runs until T+8:28.

      There is also a fair bit of thruster activity, starting at stage separation and continuing until the final burn starts.

  2. It seems that my earlier post got eaten (spam filter?) but the “Official replay” link goes to the aborted June 29th launch instead of the completed June 30th launch.

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