spacex, transporter-4

Transporter 4 | Falcon 9 Block 5

Lift Off Time
April 01, 2022 ~ 16:24:17 UTC | 12:24:17 CDT
Mission Name
Transporter 4, the fourth SpaceX dedicated small satellite rideshare mission
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
SpaceX
Customer
(Who paid for this?)
Numerous
Rocket
Falcon 9 Block 5, booster B1061-7
Launch Location
Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA
Payload mass
Unknown
Where did the spacecraft go?
Sun-synchronous Orbit
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Yes
Where did the first stage land?
~ 532 km downrange Just Read the Instructions (JRTI)

Tug: Zion M Falgout; Support: Bob
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
Yes
Were these fairings new?
Yes
This was the:
– 32nd orbital launch attempt of 2022 (31st successful)
– 155th mission for SpaceX all-time
– 146th Falcon 9 flight
– 56 day booster turn around time
– 90th re-flight of a booster
– 11th re-flight of a booster in 2022
– 112th booster landing
– 38th consecutive booster landing (a record)
– 12th launch for SpaceX in 2022
– 83rd SpaceX launch from SLC-40
Where to watch
Official replay

How Did It Go?

SpaceX successfully launched their fourth dedicated small satellite rideshare mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida. All 20 satellites and their 40 payloads were deployed on time and successfully. The Falcon 9 Block 5 booster, B1061-7 successfully landed in the Atlantic Ocean on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).

spacex, transporter4
Image from inside the fairing with all 40 payloads attached (Credit: SpaceX)

What’s On Transporter 4?

A total of 40 payloads were packed into the 5.2 meter Falcon 9 fairing and were deployed across nearly 90 minutes of mission time after reaching a Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO). The deployment sequence was determined by numerous variables including customer needs and satellite placement on the payload adaptor rings.

Payloads had specific volumetric constraints and interfaced with two diameter rings, 15 inch and 24 inch. The larger of the two allows for more volume, or a larger payload. Customers could also purchase the top slot, which allows for the biggest payload possible on a Transporter mission. A 15 inch port can support a payload mass up to 454kg (1,000lb) while a 24 inch port can support up to a 830kg (1,830lb) payload mass.

spacex, transporter 4, payload
Render of the various satellite ports on the payload adapter (Credit: SpaceX)

Payloads include satellites from ExoLaunch, D-Orbit Spacelust, Satellogic, and others.

Omnispace

Omnispace is starting a new constellation that will take approximately four years to complete. They had two satellites on Transporter 4 that will act as prototypes. Omnispace has not yet stated the fully intended size of constellation. Once complete, the satellites, in combination with terrestrial ground systems, will be able to provide 5G and internet of things services using this hybrid system.

omnispace, transporter 4, spacex
Omnispace satellite render (Credit: Omnispace)

These services will be accessible by devices such as the everyday mobile phone. The phone will connect to ground systems from the carrier it uses, as it does now. However, Omnispace states that when roaming or out of range from ground connections, the device will automatically connect to the 5G satellite network.

Each satellite is built by Thales Athena Space using a Nanoavionics satellite bus. A satellite bus is the power platform which the satellite is built on which also handles systems such as power, propulsion, and general control.

Satellogic

Previously launching on Transporter 3, Satellogic planned to launch five more satellites on Transporter 4. One satellite will be a NewSat Mark V version while the other four will be updated NewSat Mark IV versions. The main difference between the two involves the hardware onboard.

The Mark V satellite has more capable cameras, radios, sensors, and computers than the Mark IV. The upgraded Mark IV satellites have increased storage capacity as well as updated navigational and propulsion systems over previous versions. However, the main system hardware such as the cameras are identical to Mark IV satellites already in orbit.

satellogic, spacex, transporter4
Numerous NewSat satellites. Only five will launch on Transporter-4 (Credit: Satellogic)

Each satellite measures 51 by 57 by 82 cm and weighs 38.5 kg dry (no propellant onboard). Cameras on board include a 29 band hyper-spectral camera and a multi-spectral camera with a maximum image resolution of 70 cm. For specifics on the Mark IV satellite, go here.

SPACELUST And Deployed Spacecraft

SPACELUST, which is operated by D-Orbit, is the fifth launch of the company’s ION satellite carrier (ION). As stated in the vehicle name, it will use ion propulsion to transfer its seven cube sats into their respective orbits. The original orbit will be a 500 km Sun- Synchronous orbit.

These spacecraft include four satellites for the Kleos Patrol mission, adding to the constellation of eight already in orbit. This brings the total to twelve. Kleos satellites conduct intelligence and observational studies which can be used by government and commercial organizations. Each satellite has the ability to detect and locate a radio frequency emission to within 300 meters.

Additionally, SPACELUST will deploy three satellites developed at the Space Exploration Laboratory (SPEL). These satellites include PlantSat, SUCHAI 2 and SUCHAI 3

Other Payloads

There were numerous other payloads which serve a wide range of purposes also flying on Transporter 4. These include  YAM-6/VanZyl-1, Alba Cluster 5 (KILI-1 and others), GNOMES-3, RROCI, Albania 1, BDSat, Pixxel,  and EnMAP

What Is Falcon 9 Block 5?

The Falcon 9 Block 5 is SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle. Block 5 is the final iteration of the Falcon 9; the goal is to apply all the lessons learned from 56 previous Falcon 9 pre-Block 5 flights into a human-rated reusable rocket. The Falcon 9 contains 3 main components: a reusable first stage, an expendable second stage, and a reusable fairing.

Falcon 9
Falcon 9 Block 5 launching on the GPS Block III SV03 mission (Credit: SpaceX)

Block 5 updates:

SpaceX introduced a lot of changes on Block 5, allowing it to become the crew-launching reusable rocket that we know today. To start, the Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPVs) had to undergo a complete redesign. NASA mandated the COPV redesign, as it had been the cause of both of the Falcon 9 failures: AMOS-6 and CRS-7.

Along with certification for human spaceflight, Block 5 came with a number of other major changes. To increase the amount of flight each booster could handle, and decrease the turnaround time, SpaceX reinforced the landing legs, upgraded the grid fins, and added a carbon fiber interstage. They also added heat-resistant external paint and upgraded the engines. For more information about the changes in Block 5, and the other Blocks of the Falcon 9, click the image to check out this video by the Everyday Astronaut:

Falcon Series, everyday astronaut
Tim Dodd explains the differences between the Falcon 9 versions. (Click image to watch) (Credit: Andrew Taylor)

Falcon 9 Booster B1061

The booster supporting this mission is B1061. This booster has flown six times; its maiden flight was the SpaceX Crew-1, which launched on November 16, 2020. The booster’s second flight was on Crew-2, which launched on April 23, 2021. The booster’s third flight was on Sirius SXM-8 mission, which launched on June 6, 2021. CRS-23 was B1061’s fourth flight, which launched on August 29, 2021. B1061’s fifth mission was IXPE, which launched on December 9, 2021. Finally, the sixth mission for the booster was Starlink Group 4-7 on February 3, 2022. As Transporter-4 is the booster’s seventh mission, it changes its designation to B10561-7.

Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 conducted two burns. These burns allowed a soft touch down of the booster on Just Read The Instructions approximately 532 km downrange.

falcon 9, booster landing, droneship
Falcon 9 landing on Of Course I Still Love You after launching Bob and Doug (Credit: SpaceX)

Fairing Reuse

SpaceX is the first entity ever that recovers and reuses its fairings. The recovery vessels, Go Ms. Tree and Go Ms. Chief, attempted to recover the fairing halves from the water. After being jettisoned, the two fairing halves use cold gas thrusters to orientate themselves as they descend through the atmosphere. Once at a lower altitude, they deploy para-foils to help them glide down to a soft landing for recovery. 

Falcon 9, Fairing half
Fairing half loaded on semi (Credit: Lupi)

Transporter-4 Full Mission Profile

Hr/Min/Sec              Event

– 00:38:00                 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
– 00:35:00                 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
– 00:35:00                 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
– 00:16:00                 2nd stage LOX loading underway
– 00:07:00                 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
– 00:01:00                 Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00                 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
– 00:00:45                 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03                 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00                 Falcon 9 Liftoff

Launch, Landing, And Satellite Deployment*

Hr/Min/Sec              Event

00:01:12                   Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:30                   1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:34                   1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:41                   2nd stage engine starts (SES-1)
00:03:01                   Fairing deployment
00:08:40                   1st stage entry burn start
00:09:59                   2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:10:26                   1st stage landing
00:28:43                   2nd stage engine starts (SES-2)
00:28:45                   2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
01:08:28                   2nd stage engine restarts (SES-3)
01:08:29                   2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-3)
01:14:42                   ARCSAT deploys
01:14:54                   AlfaCrux deploys
01:15:07                   12 Swarm spacecraft deploy
01:16:22                   Shankuntala deploys
01:16:39                   BD-Sat deploys
01:17:08                   BRO-7 deploys
01:17:28                   NewSat-27 deploys
01:17:44                   NewSat-23 deploys
01:18:43                   NewSat-24 deploys
01:20:18                   NewSat-25 deploys
01:22:48                   NewSat-26 deploys
01:23:25                   Hawk 4C deploys
01:23:36                   Hawk 4B deploys
01:24:13                   Hawk 4A deploys
01:25:46                   MP42 deploys
01:25:58                   Lynk Tower 01 deploys
01:26:17                   SCV-005 Almighty Alexius deploys

* All times are approximate

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