Transporter-6 | Falcon 9 Block 5

Lift Off Time
January 03, 2023 – 14:55:56 UTC | 09:55:56 EST
Mission Name
Transporter-6, the sixth 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, B1060-15, 83.66-day turnaround.
Launch Location
Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA
Payload mass
Unknown
Where did the satellites go?
Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO)
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Yes
Where did the first stage land?
Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1)
This will be the:
– 1st orbital launch attempt of 2023 (1st successful)
– 1st Falcon 9 launch of 2023
– 1st mission for SpaceX of 2023

– 196th Falcon 9 mission overall
– 172nd Falcon recovery booster attempt
– 205th SpaceX mission overall
Where to watch
Official replay

How Did It Go?

SpaceX successfully launched their sixth dedicated small satellite rideshare mission, Transporter-6, from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida. The Falcon 9 Block 5 successfully performed a boostback burn and touched down on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1). Onboard Transporter-6 were 114 payloads from several customers which were to be deployed across 82 deployments. Several hours after launch, only 78 deployments have thus far been confirmed.

The previous mission, Transporter-5, hosted 59 payloads. This number includes satellites of many different sizes, as well as transfer vehicles, or space tugs.

What’s On Transporter-6?

Numerous payloads were packed into the 5.2 m Falcon 9 fairing and deployed across nearly 20 minutes of mission time after reaching a Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO). The deployment sequence is determined by many variables including customer needs and satellite placement on the payload adapter rings.

Payloads have specific volumetric constraints and interface with one of two rings, one with a 15 in (~38 cm) diameter and the other a 24 in (~61 cm) diameter. The larger ring allows for more volume, or a larger payload. Customers can also purchase the top slot, which allows for the largest possible payload on the mission. The 15-inch ring ports can support a payload mass up to 454 kg (1,000 lb) while the 24-inch ring ports can support up to a 830 kg (1,830 lb) payload mass.

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

Payloads included projects from Momentous, Skycraft, Exolaunch, D-Orbit, and others

D-Orbit

D-Orbit will host payloads from two companies: Astrocast and AAC Clyde Space. All five satellites are of 3U size and share similar goals of Earth data gathering. Astrocast has four 3U satellites which, according to their website, will “track assets, monitor the environment, and save lives.” They will do this by creating and continuing to expand on a connected Internet of Things network. Also on board is a single 3U cubesat for ACC Clyde Space called Kelpie which will deliver Automatic Identification System (AIS) data to ORBCOMM.

Launcher’s Orbiter

Created with a dual purpose, Orbiter will be hosting a number of payloads in this mission. Launcher is quite an interesting company, which developed this spacecraft: a transfer vehicle, or other times known as “space tug.” However, as the enterprise’s name implies, they are developing their own rocket: Light. Orbiter will not only reach orbit atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 — or other compatible rockets — but also as this small-lift launcher’s third stage.

Orbiter masses at 200 kg ( lb), while being capable of carrying payloads up to 400 kg. It makes use of chemical propulsion giving it a delta-v capability of 500 m/s ( ft/s) burning ethane — the fuel — and N2O — the oxidizer. Because of this, this tug will be capable of carrying out maneuvers like altitude changes, plane changes, in-plane phasing, and inclination changes.

A 3D animation of Launcher’s Orbiter (credit: Launcher)

Last but not least, Orbiter can be implemented as satellite platform (bus), which confers this spacecraft even further versatility. In this flight it will, nevertheless, act as transfer vehicle under the designation “SN1.”

PROVES -Yearling

Bronco Space was founded by Cal Poly Pomona’s students, with the aim of developing the tools necessary to help undergraduate students to gain knowledge and experience related to the space industry. The cubesat they are launching this time is a part of PROVES: the Pleiades Rapid Orbital Verification Experimental System. This is intended to be a program that will build a 1U platform that other educators could use at their own institutions. The concept is for it to be easy to use, affordable, open source, and modular.

PROVES Yearling
Integration of PROVES Yearling into TRL11‘s deployer (credit: Launcher)

Yearling belongs to the PROVES cubesat cluster, being a 1U spacecraft built on the PyCubed architecture. It will carry a camera for attitude determination, as well as three inertial measurement units. This very small satellite will serve as a lab bench in space for students. Additionally, it will use HopeRF RFM98 radio modules to communicate with the ground. In this way, the cubesat will be able to report its health, as well as information from its sensors: temperature, light, gyroscopic, and magnetometer.

Other Payloads

Numerous other payloads are also flying on Transporter-6 and serve a wide variety of services. These payloads include but are not limited to Geometric-1, Umbra, Blackjack, Skycraft, Gama Alpha, Star Vibe, YAM-5, RROCI, Menut, Planet Doves, Spire LEMUR, and others.

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 triethylaluminum and triethylborane (TEA-TEB), which instantaneously burst into flames when mixed in the presence of oxygen. 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 992 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 composite-overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB.

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

Falcon 9 Booster

The booster supporting the Transporter-6 mission is B1060-15. As the name implies, the booster has supported 14 previous missions. Upon its successful landing, the booster designation changed to B1060-16.

B1060’s missionsLaunch Date (UTC)Turn Around Time (Days)
GPS III SV03June 30, 2020 20:10N/A
Starlink V1.0 L11September 3, 2020 12:4664.69
Starlink V1.0 L14October 24, 2020 15:3151.11
Türksat-5AJanuary 8, 2021 02:1575.45
Starlink V1.0 L18February 4, 2021 06:1927.17
Starlink V1.0 L22March 24, 2021 08:2848.09
Starlink V1.0 L24April 29, 2021 03:4438.50
Transporter-2June 30, 2021 19:3162.66
Starlink Group 4-3December 2, 2021 23:12155.15
Starlink Group 4-6January 19, 2022 02:0247.22
Starlink Group 4-9March 3, 2022 14:3543.52
Starlink Group 4-14April 21, 2022 17:5149.14
Starlink Group 4-19June 17, 2022 16:0956.93
Galaxy 33 & 34October 8, 2022 23:05113.29
Transporter-6January 2, 2023 14:5683.66

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

falcon 9 booster, landing, drone ship
Falcon 9 landing on Of Course I Still Love You after launching Bob and Doug (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, however, at the end of 2020 this program was canceled due to safety risks and a low success rate. On Transporter-6, SpaceX will attempt to recover the fairing halves from the water with its recovery vessel Bob.

In 2021, SpaceX started flying a new version 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.

A passive fairing half being unloaded from Shelia Bordelon after the Starlink V1.0 L22 mission (Credit: Kyle M)

Countdown

HR/MIN/SECEVENT
00:38:00SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
00:35:00RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
00:35:001st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
00:16:002nd stage LOX loading begins
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

Launch, Landing, And Deployment

All Times Approximate.

HR/MIN/SECEVENT
00:01:12Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:171st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:201st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:282nd stage engine starts
00:02:331st stage boostback burn begins
00:03:201st stage boostback burn ends
00:03:46Fairing deployment
00:06:441st stage entry burn begins
00:07:071st stage entry burn ends
00:07:581st stage landing burn begins
00:08:232nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:08:301st stage landing
00:55:202nd stage engine restarts (SES-2)
00:55:222nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
00:58:24KuwaitSat-1 deploys
00:58:34BDSat-2 deploys
00:58:35SharedSat 2211 deploys
00:58:44LEMUR 2 EMMACULATE deploys
00:58:55LEMUR 2 FUENTETAJA-01 deploys
00:59:51ConnectaT1.2 deploys
01:00:00GAMA Alpha deploys
01:00:01BRO-8 deploys
01:00:12Menut deploys
01:00:18Huygens deploys
01:00:24LEMUR 2 DISCLAIMER deploys
01:00:35STAR VIBE deploys
01:00:55LEMUR 2 STEVEALBERS deploys
01:01:11ISILAUNCH Kleos KSF3-A deploys
01:02:02Birkeland deploys
01:02:07SPACEBEE-156/167 deploys
01:02:47LEMUR 2 MMOLO deploys
01:02:54ISILAUNCH Kleos KSF3-B deploys
01:03:25ISILAUNCH Kleos KSF3-C deploys
01:04:47LEMUR 2 PHILARI deploys
01:05:02ISILAUNCH Kleos KSF3-D deploys
01:05:03First Flock 4Y deploys
01:05:11EWS RROCI deploys
01:05:12SpaceBD ISILAUNCH PolyItan from Kiev deploys
01:05:14Second Flock 4Y deploys
01:05:23Guardian-alpha deploys
01:05:25Third Flock 4Y deploys
01:05:36Fourth Flock 4Y deploys
01:05:40SpaceBD Sony Sphere-1 deploys
01:05:50ISILAUNCH ClydeSpace NSLSat-2 deploys
01:06:30ISILAUNCH Sternula-1 deploys
01:06:35Fifth Flock 4Y deploys
01:06:45Sixth Flock 4Y deploys
01:06:58Seventh Flock 4Y deploys
01:07:50Eighth Flock 4Y deploys
01:08:33Ninth Flock 4Y deploys
01:08:4510th Flock 4Y deploys
01:09:1711th Flock 4Y deploys
01:09:2812th Flock 4Y deploys
01:09:3813th Flock 4Y deploys
01:10:2414th Flock 4Y deploys
01:10:4215th Flock 4Y deploys
01:10:5516th Flock 4Y deploys
01:11:2117th Flock 4Y deploys
01:11:3218th Flock 4Y deploys
01:11:4319th Flock 4Y deploys
01:12:3020th Flock 4Y deploys
01:12:4121st Flock 4Y deploys
01:12:5322nd Flock 4Y deploys
01:13:2623rd Flock 4Y deploys
01:13:3624th Flock 4Y deploys
01:13:5425th Flock 4Y deploys
01:14:4026th Flock 4Y deploys
01:14:5027th Flock 4Y deploys
01:15:4028th Flock 4Y deploys
01:15:5229th Flock 4Y deploys
01:16:3830th Flock 4Y deploys
01:16:4931st Flock 4Y deploys
01:17:4032nd Flock 4Y deploys
01:17:5033rd Flock 4Y deploys
01:18:4134th Flock 4Y deploys
01:18:5235th Flock 4Y deploys
01:19:4236th Flock 4Y deploys
01:19:46Lynk Tower 3 deploys
01:20:00Albania 1 deploys
01:20:02Lynk Tower 4 deploys
01:20:42YAM-5 deploys
01:21:48NewSat 34 deploys
01:22:03Albania 2 deploys
01:22:58X22 deploys
01:23:04X21 deploys
01:23:46First Umbra deploys
01:23:50Second Umbra deploys
01:24:47NewSat 35 deploys
01:24:59ION SCV-007 GLORIOUS GRATIA deploys
01:26:05ION SCV-008 FIERCE FRANCISCUS deploys
01:26:11Launcher Orbiter SN1 deploys
01:27:31X27 deploys
01:27:34Skykraft 1 deploys
01:28:10Vigoride 5 deploys
01:28:54CHIMERA LEO 1 deploys
01:31:10EOS SAT-1 deploys

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