There are two rocket launches scheduled for this Wednesday that will each carry large collections of small satellites into low earth orbit.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 is set to lift off from Southern California with “more than 60 satellites from more than 30 organizations” in the SSO-A mission brokered by Spaceflight Services of Seattle, Washington.
Targeting November 28 for launch of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 24, 2018
The liftoff time is set for 10:31:47 am local Pacific Time and 1:31:47 pm EST and 1831:47 GMT. SpaceX aims to land the Falcon 9 first stage on a platform floating on the Pacific. This will be the first reusable F9 booster to fly three times.
The SSO-A collection of payloads includes two unusual spacecraft.
The Enoch cubesat is a tribute to Robert H. Lawrence Jr., the first African-American astronaut, who was killed in a plane crash in December 1967 before he had a chance to go to space: SpaceX to Launch CubeSat Containing “Soul” of First African American Astronaut – IEEE Spectrum
… Enoch contains a 24-karat-gold canopic jar with a bust of Lawrence. Canopic jars were used by ancient Egyptians to house the organs of the deceased for use in the afterlife. This jar was blessed at a Shinto shrine in Japan and “recognized as a container for Lawrence’s soul,” according to the museum.
“[Lawrence is] someone who has a mostly untold story, who I look at as a hero but who wasn’t necessarily considered one when I was a child in school,” says Tavares Strachan, the artist behind Enoch, in an interview with IEEE Spectrum.
The project is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Another space artwork to fly on the SSO-A mission is the Orbital Reflector designed by artist Trevor Paglen and sponsored by the Nevada Museum of Art. The spacecraft is an inflatable space mirror that will be visible by naked eye from the ground.
The low orbits of most of these spacecraft means the friction with the atmosphere will limit their time in orbit to relatively short periods. For example, the large cross-section area of the Orbital Reflector will reduce its lifetime to a few months. The much smaller Enoch should last 5 to 10 years.
Meanwhile, at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is set to launch India’s Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite (HySIS) plus a collection of small satellites. These include a dozen from Spaceflight: Spaceflight Arranges Launch of 12 Satellites Aboard India’s PSLV C43 – Spaceflight.
Liftoff is set for 0400 GMT on November 29th or 11 p.m. EST on November 28th.
Commercial use of small satellites is growing fast, e.g. earth imaging company Planet has 21 satellites on the two launches including five company birds on the Falcon 9 and two university CubeSats that the company sponsored.