Spaceflight Inc. receives NASA LLITED launch contract

Spaceflight Inc., the global launch services provider, announced today it has been awarded a launch service contract for the integration and launch of NASA’s LLITED mission, two 1.5U spacecraft. Spaceflight Inc. will transport the NASA Low-Latitude Ionosphere/Thermosphere Enhancements in Density (LLITED) CubeSats to low Earth orbit on its Sherpa-LTC orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) at the end of the year aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. For this mission, the Sherpa-LTC, which uses chemical propulsion from Benchmark Space Systems, will make its initial spacecraft deployments and then ignite and maneuver to another orbital destination to deploy the NASA CubeSats.

The LLITED mission is a grant awarded to The Aerospace Corporation through NASA’s Division of Heliophysics in the Science Mission Directorate and was selected for flight by the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). As a U.S. government direct procurement, Spaceflight is the prime contractor to NASA for the mission and the launch service is led by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Launch Services Program. The LLITED team includes scientists and engineers from The Aerospace Corporation, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and University of New Hampshire.

“Spaceflight’s full-service offering with our portfolio of Sherpa OTVs vehicles greatly increases the scientific opportunities for NASA, universities, and other organizations that require deployments to non-traditional orbital destinations,” said Valerie Skarupa, director of government business development for Spaceflight Inc. She added, “We’ve enjoyed a long relationship with NASA, launching nearly 20 spacecraft for the organization over the years, and are focused on helping them get their spacecraft exactly where they need to be on orbit. This opportunity is especially rewarding as the award recognized Spaceflight’s experience with in-space transportation systems.”

The NASA CubeSat project, named LLITED, will investigate the equatorial temperature and wind anomaly that occurs in the neutral atmosphere, and the equatorial ionization anomaly that occurs in the region containing charged particles.

Dr. Rebecca Bishop, principal investigator for LLITED said, “Aerospace’s innovative CubeSat mission will measure these two features simultaneously, a major new milestone for on-orbit satellite capability. By observing this altitude region more closely, scientists will gain a greater understanding of the degree of change in atmosphere density, which in turn affects the amount of drag satellites encounter, as well as reentry rates. Because drag is dependent on atmosphere density, understanding regional changes in density can help predict an object’s reentry time and path.”

Updated: March 23, 2021 — 7:12 am

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