Spaceflight prepares propulsive Sherpa OTV to launch on upcoming Starlink mission

Spaceflight Inc., the leading global launch services provider, has announced it shipped the fully integrated Sherpa-LTC orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) and customer payload to Cape Canaveral to launch aboard an upcoming Starlink mission scheduled for next month.

The high-thrust propulsive Sherpa will deploy from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 targeting a 310-kilometer circular orbit, before igniting and transporting an undisclosed customer payload, booked through Astro Digital, to a 1,000-kilometer circular orbit.

Sherpa-LTC features a bi-propellant, green propulsion subsystem utilizing Benchmark Space Systems’ new Polaris propulsion technology. The revolutionary OTV provides a low-cost, rapid orbital transfer for many sizes of small spacecraft.

“Sherpa-LTC’s transportation capabilities coupled with the reliability and consistency of Starlink missions create an ideal solution for the customer’s unique mission needs,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “Our OTV eliminates the barriers that make it more challenging for spacecraft to access uncommon orbits in LEO and beyond. We’re eager to continue to provide innovative, cost-effective, and dependable in-space transportation services for our customers and partners like Astro Digital.”

Spaceflight’s customer and technology partner on this mission, Astro Digital, designed and manufactured the payload launching on Sherpa-LTC, and provided the command and control system known as Makalu, for the Sherpa OTV.

“Astro Digital has been proud to partner with Spaceflight’s Sherpa product line, providing command and control solutions for a wide range of OTVs,” said Jack Cohen, program manager of Astro Digital’s Makalu OTV bus platform flown on Sherpa-LTE1 and Sherpa-AC1.

“We enjoy collaborative and innovative missions, so we were eager to support this customer in developing the payload and finding a cost-effective launch option to a higher altitude,” said Chris Biddy, CEO and co-founder of Astro Digital. “To ensure mission success, we turned to Spaceflight’s Sherpa OTVs to deliver the customization needed. This approach to launch enabled us to launch our customer’s payload in a timely manner exactly where they want.”

Sherpa-LTC is the fourth iteration of Spaceflight’s Sherpa OTV program and will be its fifth vehicle to launch. The OTV’s modular design enables Spaceflight to adapt its features to accommodate specific customer needs, providing customizable in-space transportation services that get spacecraft to their target destinations in a cost-effective and timely manner.

In 2021, Spaceflight launched three Sherpa OTVs – Sherpa-FX1, Sherpa-FX2 and Sherpa-LTE1 – that successfully carried 50 spacecraft in total to orbit. Sherpa-AC, which made its debut on SpaceX’s Transporter 5 mission in May 2022, carried two hosted payloads to their desired orbital destinations.

Following this Starlink mission, Spaceflight will have successfully launched more than 550 spacecraft across more than 50 missions. Its next notable OTV mission will take place in mid-2023, launching Spaceflight’s Sherpa-ES, a bipropellant, high delta-V OTV, aboard the much-anticipated lunar slingshot mission, GEO Pathfinder.


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