On Monday, SpaceX launched its SmallSat Rideshare Program, an initiative designed to make it easier — and cheaper — for smaller satellite operators to reach space by letting them split the cost of regularly scheduled launches.
Currently, many smaller satellite operators cut the cost of reaching space by hitching a ride aboard a rocket already launching a “primary” payload into orbit, with the operator of that primary payload paying the bulk of the launch fee.
The problem is that the smaller company is then beholden to the larger one’s timeline — if for some reason the primary payload’s operator needs to delay the launch, the smaller company has no choice but to delay its own launch as well.
For the SmallSat Rideshare Program, SpaceX will pre-schedule launches, letting smaller satellite operators book spots on the rockets well in advance. The idea is that the launch will still move forward even if one or more of the companies back out — so no more unexpected delays.
If one of the smaller satellite operators does have to delay its own launch, SpaceX will even put 100 percent of what the company already paid toward the cost of rebooking.
As for what that cost will be, launches will start at $2.25 million for payloads of up to 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and $4.5 million for 300 kilograms (660 pounds) — a fraction of the minimum $57 million a company would pay to book a SpaceX rocket all for itself.
READ MORE: SpaceX will now offer dedicated ‘rideshare’ launches for small satellites [TechCrunch]
More on satellite rideshares: Europe Is Starting a “Ride-Share” for Small Satellites