Pair of SAOCOM Earth Observation Satellites to Launch between 2012 & 2013
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has signed an agreement with CONAE, Argentina's National Commission on Space Activity, for two launches aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 medium-to-heavy lift vehicle. The flights will send the SAOCOM 1A and 1B Earth observation satellites into sun-synchronous orbits, where they will provide imagery for natural resources monitoring, as well as emergency and disaster management.
The identical SAOCOM satellites each carry an L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument. Among other civil applications, the main purpose of the constellation is the measurement of the soil moisture over the Pampa Humeda in Argentina. The two SAOCOM satellites will join four X-band SAR COSMO-SkyMed satellites from the Italian Space Agency (ASI), creating the Italian-Argentine System of Satellites for Emergency Management (SIASGE) constellation. The first three of the ASI satellites were launched in 2007 and 2008 with the fourth expected to fly in 2010.
"SpaceX is excited to be CONAE's launch service provider for the SAOCOM 1A and 1B missions," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The Falcon 9 launch vehicle has been designed to the highest level of reliability and performance; we look forward to helping ensure the success of the SAOCOM satellites."
The inaugural flight of Falcon 9 is scheduled for this year, with the first Dragon spacecraft scheduled to fly on a subsequent launch, both from SpaceX's launch facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
CONAE (Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, or in English, National Space Activities Commission) is Argentina's civilian agency in charge of national space activities. They have launched three satellites to date, and have numerous joint space efforts with Argentine industry and academia, as well as governmental space agencies around the world, including NASA, CSA, AEB/INPE (Brazil), ASI, CNES, ESA and agencies of several other nations.
SpaceX is revolutionizing access to space by developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally-developed engines, SpaceX offers light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions.
On September 28, 2008, Falcon 1, designed and manufactured from the ground up by SpaceX, became the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth, demonstrating that through simplicity, both reliability and low cost can be achieved in commercial spaceflight.
As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS. SpaceX is the only COTS contender that has the capability to return cargo and crew to Earth. NASA also has an option to demonstrate crew services to the International Space Station (ISS) using the Falcon 9 / Dragon system.
In addition, NASA recently selected the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for the ISS Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) contract award. The contract includes 12 flights between 2010 and 2015 and represents a guaranteed minimum of 20,000 kg to be carried to the ISS.
Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers more than 660 full time employees, located primarily in Hawthorne, California, with additional locations, including SpaceX's Texas Test Facility in McGregor near Waco; offices in Washington DC; and launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.