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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches five AlbaPod 3D printed deployers

The Alba Orbital deployers released 13 PocketQube satellites into orbit

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Five AlbaPod v2, the PocketQube deployers by Alba Orbital and additively manufactured by CRP Technology were launched into orbit as part of SpaceX’s Transporter-3 mission using Falcon 9 rocket. The deployers were produced using polymer PBF 3D printing and the carbon fiber reinforced composite material Windform XT 2.0. The launch took place on Thursday, January 13th, 2022.

The deployers successfully completed their mission: once they separated from the Falcon 9 rocket, the deployers began launching the PocketQubes into orbit. These, in turn, began to send signals to the earth.

With 13 PocketQube spacecraft integrated into five 3D printed AlbaPods v.2 deployers, the mission represented Alba Orbital’s biggest cluster to date and the first PocketQubes deployment from Falcon-9 Transporter-3. This was the third dedicated launch for SpaceX’s small satellite rideshare service, which aims to give microsatellites and CubeSats a more affordable ride into orbit.

The Transporter-3 mission flew southeast from Cape Canaveral, then turned south, parallel to Florida’s East Coast, to deliver the Falcon 9 rocket’s 105 satellite passengers into a roughly 326-mile-high (525-kilometer) polar sun-synchronous orbit.

One of the AlbaPod v2 PocketQube deployers by Alba Orbital
One of the AlbaPod v2 PocketQube deployers by Alba Orbital

Engineer Franco Cevolini, CEO and CTO at CRP Technology, stated: Congrats to Alba Orbital and to all the teams that have flown with them, for all their hard work. On Thursday 13th January 2022 a new milestone was reached in the nanosatellites arena: we are very proud, as a supplier of space-proven materials and technology. This successful mission demonstrates once again the extreme value of Windform materials for high performance, heavy-duty and mission-critical applications.”

SpaceX’s Transporter-3 mission, using the Falcon 9 rocket and the related Alba Orbital’s “Alba Cluster 3 & 4” mission, consisted in the integration of the 13 PocketQubes into 5 of the 3D printed deployers as preparation for the launch. This goes well beyond a one-time prototype process, into an actual production sector of work for both CRP Technology and its US-based partner CRP USA.

Four out of the 13 PocketQubes that participated in the mission, marked a “first” :

  • “UNICORN-2A, 2D & 2E are Alba Orbital’s first Earth Observation satellites designed to provide the highest resolution dataset of the earth at night.
  • “PION-BR1 is the very first satellite to be developed by a Brazilian start-up.
  • “GRIZU-263a is Turkey’s first-ever pico-satellite to be launched in-orbit, it was designed and built by the Turkish student team Grizu-263 Uzay Takımı.
  • TARTAN-ARTIBEUS -1 is the first intermittent, orbital edge computing nanosatellite that operates with no batteries aboard the SpaceX Falcon-9 Transporter-3 mission. This open-source project was developed at Carnegie Mellon University

The other PocketQubes integrated in Alba’s 3D printed deployers were:

  • MDQube-SAT1, an Argentinian 2p PocketQube developed by ‘classroom turned space start-up’ Innova Space, carrying out an IoT mission.
  • UNICORN-1, another Alba-built 2p PocketQube, designed in partnership with the European Space Agency – ESA.
  • HADES’ & ‘EASAT, twin 1.5p PocketQubes developed in Spain by AMSAT-EA and Hydra Space. They were designed for satellite communications between radio amateurs via a 145/435 MHz transponder.
  • SATTLA-2A & 2B, open-source project developed by Ariel University in Israel. These 2p PocketQubes will utilise WiFi cards for extreme long-range link applicable to transmit video for over 600km in LOS conditions.
  • DELFI-PQ, a 3p PocketQube developed in the Netherlands by TU Delft | Aerospace Engineering. This satellite is a tech demo mission testing a LOFAR payload and a laser retroreflector.
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