Spaceflight Insider

Sierra Nevada delivers final 11 ORMCOMM OG2 satellites for launch

ORBCOMM OG2 satellite SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket SNC photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

SNC has delivered 11 ORBCOMM OG2 satellites in preparation for launch. Photo Credit: SNC

While known mostly for their Dream Chaser spacecraft, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) also constructs spacecraft for other customers. SNC has delivered 11 ORBCOMM Generation 2 (OG2) satellites to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft are scheduled to launch atop a Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket for the mission. The currently scheduled launch date is mid-to-late December of 2015.

“SNC looks forward to completing the OG2 constellation with the delivery of 11 flight-proven and highly-capable satellites for the Mission 2 launch,” SNC Space System’s Corporate Vice President Mark N. Sirangelo said via a release. “These 11 satellites were integrated and tested in a high-volume production environment, demonstrating our ability to efficiently integrate and produce constellations in this class. In addition to the design and build of all OG2 satellites, SNC will also support [the] launch, in-orbit testing, and deployment of these satellites simultaneously from our Satellite Operations Center in Louisville, Colorado.”

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes with NASA's CRS-7 mission to the International Space Station photo credit Carleton Bailie SpaceFlight Insider

The launch of the ORBCOMM OG2 satellites should mark the return to flight for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket since the June 28, 2015, accident that resulted in the complete loss of the booster, Dragon spacecraft and the payload it carried. Photo Credit: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

The spacecraft still have a lot of prep work to go through before they are ready for flight. The OG2 satellites are scheduled to undergo further post-transport testing, fueling, and inspection. Once these steps are complete, they will be cocooned into the Falcon 9 payload fairing and prepped for launch.

ORBCOMM satellites are low-Earth orbit (LEO) communications satellites. These spacecraft use a unique Machine-to-Machine communication system (M2M) that provides tracking, monitoring and control services for remote and mobile assets.

ORBCOMMS primary customers include companies involved transportation and distribution, heavy equipment, industrial fixed assets, oil and gas, and maritime as well as government services. Each of these satellites has a mass of about 379 pounds (172 kilograms). This group of 11 spacecraft represents the last of the Generation 2 satellites to be sent to orbit.

After successfully begin deployed, ORBCOMM will have a total of 18 of these second-generation satellites in orbit. ORBCOMM currently has 50 satellites in its global constellation.

This flight of 11 spacecraft has been delayed repeatedly. First, it was scheduled for late 2014, but ORBCOMM rescheduled it for July-August 2015. The flight was further delayed with the breakup of a Falcon 9 rocket on the CRS-7 resupply mission to the International Space Station in June of this year. ORBCOMM agreed to trade places for this flight with the SES-9 communications satellite.

“ORBCOMM and SNC are pleased to be in the final stages of the launch and test of our advanced next generation OG2 satellites,” ORBCOMM’s Chief Executive Officer Marc Eisenberg. “We expect to be offering our customers in Q1 2016, an enhanced, more efficient communications network, significantly increasing network capacity, coverage and performance, including an Automatic Identification System (AIS) payload on every spacecraft.”

Each of the satellites scheduled for launch has a planned service life of about 5 years. The architecture is based on the SN-100 satellite bus, a system that has served SNC and ORBCOMM well for these Generation 2 spacecraft. The SN-100 uses a modular payload deck. This deck can be rapidly engineered and tested, helping to keep the cost of manufacture low.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this mission is not the payload itself, but rather what might happen with the rocket’s first stage. During a recent event held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it was revealed that SpaceX was working to attempt a landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage on land with the Orbcomm OG2 mission. The launch of the mission is currently slated to take place no-earlier-than Dec. 19 (according to The Lurio Report on Twitter).


Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.

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