Three Satellites From SpaceX’s Latest Rideshare Mission Are Missing in Action

Three Satellites From SpaceX’s Latest Rideshare Mission Are Missing in Action

Among the over 100 satellites that launched on board SpaceX’s Transporter-9 mission, three failed to deploy and their current whereabouts are unknown.

In-space transportation company Momentus recently announced last week that three out of the five satellites it launched on board a Falcon 9 rocket on Nov. 11 presumably did not deploy from the rocket’s upper stage. Momenuts supported five payloads for four different customers and confirmed the deployment of two satellites, Hello Test 1 and 2, for Turkish company Hello Space while the three remaining satellites likely failed to be released.

The three lost satellites are AMAN-1, an Earth observation satellite for Poland’s SatRev, JINJUSat-1 another Earth observation satellite for South Korea’s CONTECv, and Picacho, a communication prototype satellite for Tucson startup Lunasonde.

Things were presumably going well for Lunasonde after the company received initial telemetry data from Picacho and assumed that its satellite was successfully in orbit.

“Although the telemetry was relatively weak, given its characteristics and without having the benefit of knowing there was an anomaly in the deployment, Lunasonde determined the signals were from Picacho,” the company wrote in an emailed statement. “Lunasonde surmises that the only way these signals would be sent would be through the deployment of the antenna.”

The company is now trying to locate and communicate with its lost satellite.

“To our knowledge, a situation such as this—where there are no clear indications of exactly what transpired—is unprecedented,” Jeremiah Pate, Lunasonde CEO, said in the statement. “Therefore, we feel the right thing to do is to assume the satellite is in orbit and it is incumbent upon us to try to locate it.”

The prototype satellite was meant to usher in the deployment of a constellation of microsatellites that use low-frequency radar to map minerals and other resources located beneath the Earth’s surface.

For the latest Transporter mission, Momentus used a deployer from an unidentified third party to deliver the satellites to orbit rather than its in-house Vigoride tug since the satellites didn’t need additional maneuvering. The company is running an ongoing investigation into what went wrong with the deployment of the small satellites.

SpaceX continues to see high demand for its small satellite rideshare missions. Transporter-9 carried 113 payloads, 90 of which deployed directly from the Falcon 9 rocket while the remaining satellites were deployed from an orbital transfer vehicle.

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