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Tony Frego在Spaceflight Inc.洁净室
Tony Frego, Spaceflight Inc.’s senior director of mission management, shows off the Sherpa-LTE1 orbital transportation vehicle and its electric propulsion system. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

赤褐色,洗。 - 一对空间拖船开始他们的旅程SpaceFlight Inc.洁净室,西雅图南部,到低地轨道。

Along the way, the Sherpa orbital transportation vehicles and their 36 ride-along spacecraft will be loaded up on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and fired off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida as early as this month.

空间flight’s Sherpa vehicles are pioneering a relatively recent innovation in the satellite launch industry. Such space tugs can go up on a single launch and send a variety of rideshare satellites to a variety of orbits. The first Sherpa-FX model successfully deployed 13 satellites and carried two additional piggyback payloadsduring SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission in January

This time around, there are a couple of added twists: Two Sherpas — FX2 and LTE1 — will ride on the upcoming mission, which is called Transporter-2. And LTE1 is the first Sherpa to be equipped with an electric propulsion system that’sbeing provided by California-based Apollo Fusion。Electric propulsion is the real-life parallel to the ion drives that are standard fare in science-fiction sagas like星球大战andStar Trek

Apollo’s electric propulsion system, and a chemical propulsion system that’s due to make its debut later this year, will give the Sherpas more options for satellite deployments. That’s the bottom line for Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc., which focuses on managing launch logistics for small-satellite customers.

“我们有只需要去525公里的轨道需要去Spacex将带你去,那没关系。其他客户可能想要转到540,或者600,或者也许他们想要一个不同的飞机。因此,您必须在轨道上进行轨道的一些变化,“Tony Frego,Spailflight的特派团管理高级总监,在奥本公司的航天器整合设施之旅中解释。

“What we’re looking to do here is to get our customers to the right spot at the right time to enable them to do their mission,” Frego told GeekWire.

基本的夏尔巴人是修改或设计added to, depending on the requirements of the mission. It’s reminiscent of a vacuum cleaner with multiple attachments. “I’ve heard the Lego analogy as well,” Frego said. “We’re very much ‘accessorizing’ the Sherpa vehicle with different capabilities.”


For Transporter-2, the space tugs will be carrying six microsatellites, 29 even smaller nanosatellites and a hosted payload that’ll remain onboard the Sherpa in orbit.

14个客户来自7个不同的国家are represented on the payload manifest. The payloads include satellites for Internet of Things connectivity fromSwarm TechnologiesandAstrocast; Earth-observing satellites fromHawkeye 360​​.andSpire Global; and用于轨道工厂的轨道加油的原型轨道宇宙飞船

在我们的旅游期间,六位工程师戴着发夹和洁净室的礼服聚集在一起Lynk Global’s cell-tower satellite就像在卡表上的许多扑克玩家一样,蜿蜒上工作。

Sherpa Infographic.
空间flight Inc. plans to have two of its Sherpa satellite carriers sent into orbit, including the first space tug outfitted with an electric propulsion system. Click on the image for a larger version. (Spaceflight Graphic).

SpaceFlight Inc.workers and their industry partners faced a May 31 deadline for finishing up assembly of the Sherpa vehicles so they could be trucked to Florida for a final round of pre-launch processing.

由于一些往常的工作日,航天飞行在周一发货,谢尔普 - FX2将于周三遵循。

“It was a late night last night,” Frego said during Friday’s tour. “But it was pretty awesome to see it come together.”

The primary objective for the Transporter-2 mission is to get all the satellites deployed in their proper orbits, but there’s a secondary objective for Sherpa-LTE1.

LTE1’s electric propulsion system can be used not only to send the Sherpa into different orbits, but also to take the Sherpa out of orbit when its mission is done. Spaceflight Inc. will test that capability at the end of the Transporter-2 mission.

“How do we not create more space clutter up there in orbit?” Frego asked. “One of the ways you can do that is to basically use the propulsion system on board to bring it down to a much lower orbit and altitude. … Instead of deorbiting in years, you might deorbit in weeks. That means there’s less chance of a collision on orbit, because you’ve moved it that much closer. And then everything will just burn up in the atmosphere.”

As satellites get smaller and launches get cheaper, Spaceflight Inc. expects to rely increasingly on its Sherpa spacecraft to scatter flocks of satellites in orbit.


Just outside the clean-room door, Spaceflight Inc. has set aside a space where it’s already stockpiling parts for future Sherpas. Some of the components are built in-house, but other components are made elsewhere.

“Almost all of them are made at local machine shops,” Frego said. “That’s one of the things we’ve definitely tried to do: utilize the existing local workforce base that we have with the machine shops. And a lot of them have been great.”

That’s one of the reasons why Spaceflight Inc. continues to be headquartered in the Seattle area, even though it’s现在由一副日本公司拥有并锻炼身体launches from locales as far away as India。空间flight Inc. can take advantage of the infrastructure that’s been built up over the course ofmore than a centuryto support Boeing’s airplane business.



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