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Space startup Launcher to fly an orbital platform filled with CubeSats on a SpaceX rocket in 2022

An illustration of the Launcher Orbiter spacecraft in its modular CubeSat deployer configuration (90U available), deploying two
An illustration of the Launcher Orbiter spacecraft in its modular CubeSat deployer configuration (90U available), deploying two (Image credit: Launcher)

Startup space company Launcher has a new satellite platform that will carry stacks of CubeSats into space, the company announced after a nearly $12 million funding round.

The platform, called Orbiter, will send up to 330 pounds (150 kg) of mass to orbit. Initially, it will be used for rideshare missions that send fleets of small satellites into orbit, with a larger satellite riding aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Launcher's debut mission will take off aboard a Falcon 9 in October 2022.

"With Orbiter, small satellite constellation developers can take advantage of the rapid cadence and unprecedented price point of the SpaceX rideshare program to build their constellation at optimum cost and timing," Hawthorne, Calif.-based Launcher stated in a press release.

Related: See the evolution of SpaceX's rockets in pictures

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An illustration of the Launcher Orbiter spacecraft shortly after separating from its Launcher Light rocket's upper stage.

An illustration of the Launcher Orbiter spacecraft shortly after separating from its Launcher Light rocket's upper stage. (Image credit: Launcher)
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An artist's concept of the Launcher Orbiter with its propulsion module engaged.

An artist's concept of the Launcher Orbiter with its propulsion module engaged. (Image credit: Launcher)
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An artist's concept of the planned Launcher Light rocket with a Launcher Orbiter spacecraft encapsulated inside its payload fairing.

An artist's concept of the planned Launcher Light rocket with a Launcher Orbiter spacecraft encapsulated inside its payload fairing. (Image credit: Launcher)

Orbiter will also serve as the third stage of Launcher Light, a small rocket that Launcher hopes to get into low Earth orbit in 2024. The company said customers may want to consider Launcher Light for "additional orbits and schedules." 

The rocket's comparatively diminutive size (at 50 feet (15 meters)) allows full dedication to a single small mission, as opposed to SpaceX's Falcon 9 (230 feet or 70 meters), in which Orbiter must fly as a rideshare vehicle.

Whatever option customers choose, most of the Orbiter components are designed and built by Launcher for "competitive pricing for its customers", the company added. Orbiter can also change the satellites' orbital velocity by roughly 0.3 miles (500 meters) per second, allowing the machines to go slightly higher or lower in their orbits.

Launcher Light will compete in a crowded, small rocket market that includes Rocket Lab's Electron and Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne. Back in 2018, however, Max Haot, the founder and chief executive of Launcher, told SpaceNews that the company is not prepared to rush into space. However, he added that Launcher Light does have the advantage to optimize for performance instead of asking its customers to make changes for their payloads.

"We have a very long-term view, 10 to 20 years," Haot said in the interview. "We don't believe that the people that got there a few years before will be the winners. We believe that the ones operating with the highest margin will be the winner."

Earlier this month, Launcher announced that it raised $11.7 million in a Series A funding round, co-led by Boost.VC and Haot, who put in $5 million from selling his Mevo camera business to Logitech. The company is also working on developing an E-2 engine for Launcher Light.

Haot said the extra money will help boost Launcher Light into orbit, along with funding the hiring of an additional 40 employees in 2021, almost double its current number of 30, according to Ars Technica. By flight time three years from now, Launcher plans to have 150 people on staff.

"Compared to our competitors, we are in the kindergarten of fundraising," Haot told Ars Technica. "This is a major acceleration of funding for us."

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.

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