Small launch companies seek niches to compete with SpaceX rideshare

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Small launch vehicle developers are working to carve out niches in a market for smallsat launches that is increasingly dominated by SpaceX’s Transporter rideshare missions.
The Transporter missions, which fill a Falcon 9 often with more than 100 smallsats, offer per-kilogram prices significantly below dedicated small launch vehicles. SpaceX has seen high demand for those missions and announced plans last year for a related line of missions called Bandwagon that will go to mid-inclination orbits.
“The Transporter program was created a few years ago with, in my opinion, the sole purpose of trying to kill new entrants like us,” said Sandy Tirtey, director of global commercial launch services at Rocket Lab, during a panel at the SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 7. “Yet, we are still flying because we offer something unique.”
That uniqueness, he argued, is the ability to fly missions to specific orbits not served by Transporter rideshare mis...

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