DigitalGlobe has included a cubesat rideshare program on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket scheduled to carry the WorldView-4 imaging satellite to orbit in mid-September from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Atlas V launch vehicle has a greater lift capability than is needed to place the WorldView-4 satellite into its required orbit. Rather than letting the excess capability go to waste, DigitalGlobe has allocated a portion of the excess launch vehicle performance capability to launch a number of cubesats, a concept known as “ridesharing.”
Ridesharing is a flight-proven, innovative approach that provides lower-cost access to space by eliminating the need for a dedicated launch vehicle. Cubesats are miniaturized satellites as small as 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm and weighing as little as 1 kilogram.
The cubesats will be launched by use of ULA’s Centaur Aft Bulkhead Carrier that has flown successfully on four previous Atlas V missions. All of the cubesats manifested for the WorldView-4 mission are sponsored by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and are unclassified technology demonstration programs. DigitalGlobe is also partnering with California Polytechnic State University, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance to bring this rideshare program to fruition.
The addition of a rideshare program poses no material risk to a successful and on-time launch of WorldView-4. The cubesats are unpowered throughout the launch, separate from the launch vehicle well after the WorldView-4 satellite is deployed, and are deliberately placed into Low Earth Orbits sufficiently different from WorldView-4’s orbit.
The manifest will include a total of seven cubesats. Further details about the cubesats selected to fly along with WorldView-4 will be released to the public closer to the launch date.