Patent published on February 26, 2016

Boeing on the track to make satellite launches cheaper than ever

Boeing’s new patented satellite configuration with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will make satellite launches cheaper than ever.

Boeing, last year, launched two electrical satellites via Space X Falcon 9 – a bargain rocket as it is reusable. What impressive thing Boeing did was that they stacked one satellite on top of other.

On the surface, this doesn’t look like anything impressive, but believe me it’s really a big deal. Why? Because using this configuration helped them drop extra supportive structure from the rocket. This saves a mission cost by reducing extra weight. A typical enclosing Sylda, for example, weighs around 600kg.

Until Oct 2015, Boeing could send electric-powered satellites only. They even had a patent filed for that. Keeping the innovation flowing, Boeing recently has filed another patent application which discloses sending hybrid satellites to space by stacking one on top of other.

Before jumping into Rocket science and explaining how the heck they are doing it and what were the odds, let’s delve on basics to understand how this is a breakthrough.

Rockets can carry multiple satellites at once through several methods to avert multiple launches. SpaceX Falcon 9 is one of the best examples which, On Dec 22, 2015, launched 11 OG-2 satellites into orbits, and landed back on its pad.

11 satellites deployed to target orbit and Falcon has landed back at Cape Canaveral. Headed to LZ-1. Welcome back, baby!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2015

One question that can bug you, which bugged me, too, is: how actually rockets carry multiple payloads? And how rocket scientists arrange them in a rocket shell? Hence, I researched and found the answer:

In general, there are two methods to carry multiple payloads:

In this, the first payload is kept on top of an enclosing carrying another payload. This helps in multi-stage launches where we want to deploy different satellites at different orbits. Sylda and Vespa are some examples of these enclosing which were used in Ariane 5 launch.

Or by using an ESPA ring adapter

We use this method to launch Cube-shaped satellites that can fit in your palm. NASA is working on four new projects to develop and send CubeSats to Earth’s low orbit to test emerging technologies. Here’s an image for you to understand it better. The Falcon 9 use the same method.


And as soon as I was done with this, another question bugged me. I’m sure it must be bugging you, too. The question was: if we need such a complex system to deliver multiple satellites, how Boeing came up with such a painless method?

And this is what I found. Let me explain it with the help of this image of Boeing’s stacked satellites ( it was carried by Falcon 9).

Now these two satellites are interchangeable. This makes it less complex. Moreover, each satellite has an electric propulsion system to steer its way to its desired operational orbit i.e. at 35,888 km.

But not carrying extra enclosing may cause damage to satellites due to vibration? It may also exert load on the satellite. Is this something that you’re thinking now?

Well, Boeing’s patent mentions that they have tackled this already by testing the configuration in several conditions. The satellites can withstand bumps and shakes of the rocket. Without getting a single scratch! Here’s a video of Boeing testing these satellites.

So now Boeing can send both electrical and hybrid satellites into an orbit. Their cost-effective configuration with Space X reusable rockets will make satellite launching cheaper than ever.

Also, Boeing has found a way to generate electricity from airports’ noise.

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