ORBCOMM Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today announced the launch schedule for ORBCOMM’s second generation (OG2) satellites. The updated plan includes launching the first OG2 prototype satellite on the first Cargo Re-supply Services (CRS) mission in mid-2012, followed closely by an additional launch of two OG2 satellites into a high inclination orbit as a secondary payload in late 2012. In early 2013, SpaceX plans to launch eight to twelve OG2 satellites, and the remainder of the constellation of 18 OG2 satellites is expected to be launched in 2014. All launches are expected to be on Falcon 9 rockets.
In transitioning the launch of the first OG2 prototype spacecraft to the first CRS mission in lieu of the upcoming Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) mission, and adding the launch of two spacecraft toward the second half of 2012, ORBCOMM is able to field additional spacecraft in 2012 resulting in increased coverage, while spreading the deployment across multiple launches thereby reducing risk. SpaceX will fully verify the mission performance on the COTS mission and focus on the successful berthing of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).
The inclusion of two OG2 satellites as a secondary payload on a high inclination insertion orbit will enable ORBCOMM to significantly improve messaging services in polar latitudes. Additionally, it provides the ability to thoroughly test and verify OG2 satellite performance before the primary launch of eight to twelve OG2 satellites.
“We are excited to put ORBCOMM’s second generation satellites into orbit as scheduled, in the most desirable inclinations with the least amount of risk.” said Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX. “ORBCOMM has been a great partner and we are looking forward to launch.”
“We are pleased that SpaceX has offered ORBCOMM this opportunity to launch two satellites that will help our customers using our OG2 messaging services, and additionally augment service to our maritime Automatic Identification System (AIS) customers that benefit from coverage at higher inclinations,” said Marc Eisenberg CEO of ORBCOMM. “The net outcome of these revised launch plans has us launching OG2 satellites at a faster pace with less risk.”
The parameters of the Falcon 9 launch of eight to twelve OG2 satellites as its primary mission in early 2013 will be optimized to ensure the best coverage for the enhanced OG2 messaging services. ORBCOMM expects several OG2 satellites will be directly inserted into a specific plane to immediately improve messaging services while other satellites will be put into a transfer orbit and drift to their final orbit location. ORBCOMM expects the drifting operation will take several months to occur and that the satellites will be functional and providing messaging services during this period.