How To Launch An Object In Space
Updated: Jul 12
Whether you're a startup or well-seasoned spacefaring entity, locating and booking a launch with a respective provider is an involved process. Experienced launch providers supply a wide variety of services including management, compliance, integration, engineering, and more depending on what the customer may require. They are equipped to accommodate the extraordinary constraints that journeys to space can encounter. Although, even with a comprehensive Statement of Work (SOW), complexities can arise as the program matures and the global space industry rapidly evolves.
The process begins by contacting the preferred launch provider’s business development team to furnish initial information for desired orbit, departure timing, payload parameters, and any unique spacecraft requirements. The provider then creates a list of all available launches compatible with your supplied criteria. Included below are basic details required for a typical deployment:
Separation System Interface
Spacecraft unique requirements
Once the basic information has been submitted, additional preliminary activities must be completed to establish an official countdown to liftoff. Automation and streamlining of these tasks are a large part of Lunargistic’s value proposition. A launch preparation could be summarized in four key categorizations:
Locating your Launch Provider
Managing your Mission
Standard & Optional Services
Safety & Mission Assurance
Designing for Compatibility
Rideshare Spacecraft Environments
Rideshare Spacecraft Design Compatibility Guidelines
Planning Your Launch Campaign
Logistics and Spacecraft Transportation
Facilities, Operations and Ground Support Equipment
Locating Your Launch Provider
Once a provider is identified, manifesting an agreeable contract will be the most crucial activity of this phase. The contract is typically composed of four components: quote, Letter of Agreement (LOA), Launch Service Agreement (LSA) and Compliance Assessment. A provider quote will identify the spacecraft with available launch opportunities servicing designated orbital parameters and associated pricing estimations. An LOA captures high-level terms and conditions, whereas the LSA expands upon these with exhibits exclusive to the launch opportunity and SOW specifications.
The compliance assessments are conducted during the contracting phase to discover export controls, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) / Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and associated reporting requirements. Lunargistics can assist with planning, and provide guidance to spacecraft providers throughout the mission to ensure compliant exchange of sensitive technical information. This includes payload and launch providers, as well as transport hardware under the appropriate export licenses.
Managing Your Mission
Launch provider mission management teams are dedicated to the customer for satisfying needs, and delivering advocacy for the spacecraft universally. They will usually assign a mission manager as a single Point of Contact (POC) for the duration of the program. This manager will help facilitate and orchestrate the launch payload through the numerous stages and activities involved with managing a successful mission. Mission management tasks include the following:
Creation and management of schedule and Interface Control Documentation (ICD)
Provision of templates for deliverables
Completion and distribution of mission analyses
Detailed review and feedback on deliverables
Assessment of compliance to requirements
Guidance for range safety deliverables
Export license arrangement
Logistics coordination and support
Provisions of standard Ground Support Equipment (GSE)
Facilitation of spacecraft-specific engineering analyses (e.g. deployment, re-contact, environments derivation, and waiver assessments)
The entire mission management process materializes over a period of one year or longer on average before the designated launch date and finalization of all tasks. Sophisticated spacecraft programs can take much longer with greater dependencies, costs, and overall risk. A typical mission schedule will include an overall program, integration, and launch campaign schedule at minimum.
The mission schedule objective is to drive the spacecraft customers deliverables to completion within the designated timelines while maintaining cadence and coherence amongst supporting efforts. Deliverable documentation is a representation of the required content that must be disseminated, interpreted, and approved across launch vehicle providers and supporting organizations for timely and safe spacecraft initiative realization. The following table (page 5) represents a standard set of launch deliverables and associated descriptions.
Designing for Compatibility
Rideshare services are beginning to proliferate the market with technology miniaturization and maturation. Launch providers are now embracing the ridesharing community and concepts. When blended with talented managers, engineers, and specialized proficiencies, this enables tremendous gains in efficiencies that translate to more successful and cost effective spacecraft deployment.
Orbital functionality aside, the environmental variables and launch configuration dramatically dictates the spacecraft design. Optimization of compatible payload development across launch opportunities while balancing compliance objectives, industry standards, and innovative technologies with operational simplicity will lead to the most effective outcomes. Ridesharing services adhere to “non-interference” and “do no harm” guidelines, and requirements to avoid conflicts and maintain all-inclusive space initiative separation.
Planning Your Launch Campaign
The secret to a successful launch campaign lies in the original SOW and ICD definitions. However, there are abundant ancillary intricacies required for celestial initiatives to come to fruition. When the launch window nears acceleration of spacecraft preparation activities increase respectively. Orbital coordinates, collaborative specifications, logistics, facilities equipment for isolated, yet integrated cross-functional and multi-location operations, all need to be orchestrated with delicate precision and scientific veracity, while maximizing efficiencies across authorized program boundaries.
The above illustration reflects a vehicle launch, upper stage spacecraft deployment, downlink vector state, separation verification, telemetry, and relaying of orbital data to launch control and relevant supporting organizations. Initiative timelines will vary from mission to mission. However these are generally the high-level pattern of events and conditions.
This blog post is intended to provide an orbital level overview of the mission planning, management, and guidance available to spacecraft providers and space entrepreneurs based on Lunargistic's Chief Scientist Vishal Singh's experience and knowledge. Navigating a program with the gravity of spacefaring activities and next generation technologies can be intimidating to say the least. Lunargistics is bridging these gaps, and unifying service excellence in the emerging areas of space modernization.