Comments under the question What ever happened to SHERPA? about NovaWurks, Inc. led me to search for the DARPA eXCITe microsatellite. Spaceflight 101's page includes:

Th(e) objectives of the mission are:

  • Demonstrate aggregation ability to withstand launch environment, perform and maintain thermal control, communicate with the ground, reconstitute traditional spacecraft bus capability
  • Demonstrate aggregation ability to support a simple and a complex payload An additional payload, eXCITe carries the QIKcom-2 amateur communications payload for the US Naval Academy Satellite Lab, containing an APRS packet radio communications transponders for relaying remote telemetry, sensor and user data from remote users and amateur radio environmental experiments or other data sources back to Amateur Radio experimenters via a global network of internet linked volunteer ground stations.

eXCITe will also carry the SeeMe satellite to be deployed some time after launch.>

Both this page and SeeMe's linked page list 2018 Va SLC-4E Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) as the launch information, and includes a long list of other private and also government satellites to be launched at the same time, which ends appropriately with (US Gov), (US Gov), (US Gov), (US Gov), (US Gov).

To the extent that I wouldn't have to be killed after being told (also XKCD 707) I'd like to know the current status of this smallsat with a piggy-backed smaller-sat. Has it launched yet? If not, is this launch scheduled?

I'm guessing it hasn't since ICEYE X1 appears in Celestrak's current satcat but ICEYE X2 does not.

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above: "eXCITe (with SeeMe on top) [DARPA]" Source

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above: Source

The QIKcom-2 module is a senior engineering project of a group of students at the Naval Academy that has been offered a ride to space on a host satellite named eXCITe originally to be launched in late 2016

[...]QIKCOM-2 continues the PCsat(2001) and PSAT(2015) amateur radio missions noted above containing an APRS packet radio communications transponder for relaying remote telemetry, sensor and user data from remote users and amateur radio environmental experiments or other data sources back to Amateur Radio experimenters via a global network of internet linked volunteer ground stations. The APRS transponder also includes telemetry, about the module's temperatures, power supply voltages and currents, solar array attitude and GPS position. QIKCOM-2 also adds a unique experimental DTMF (TouchTone) uplink on 145.98 MHz for users in the field who might not have access to an all-in-one integrated APRS radio.


1 Answer 1


It seems to be this one: Nov. 19, Falcon 9, Spaceflight SSO-A.

Seattle – August 6, 2018 – Spaceflight, the leading rideshare and mission management provider, announced details behind its SSO-A mission, the largest single rideshare mission from a US-based launch vehicle to date. Spaceflight has contracted with more than 70 spacecraft from approximately 35 different organizations, to launch from a SpaceX Falcon 9 later this year. The mission, named SSO-A: SmallSat Express, represents the company’s purchase of an entire Falcon 9 to accommodate the growing number of domestic, international, government and commercial customers seeking affordable rideshare options to launch their spacecraft into orbit.

“As our inaugural dedicated rideshare mission, SSO-A: SmallSat Express is a momentous milestone for Spaceflight,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight. “Launching more than 70 satellites from one launch vehicle is a challenging feat and our talented team has made many advances to make this historic launch a reality. As demand for affordable launch options continues to grow, dedicated rideshare missions will play an important role in providing frequent and reliable access to space.”

The SSO-A “SmallSat Express” launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 represents the largest rideshare mission to date on an American launch vehicle. The Falcon 9, launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will place 71 small satellites into sun-synchronous orbit.

“We’re beginning the integration process,” Curt Blake, president of the Seattle-based launch services company, said in a recent interview. Some of the satellites will be integrated into the overall payload stack at the company’s facilities, with the rest being done at the launch site.

[...]About three-quarters of the payloads are from companies. Besides Planet, they include Astrocast, Audacy, Capella, Fleet and HawkEye 360, all of whom have plans for smallsat constellations. Several universities have payloads on the mission, as well as one from the Nevada Museum of Art and another from a high school.

“It’s a really broad spectrum across industry, universities, governments,” Blake said. “It’s a really broad base.”

Spaceflight announced plans for the SSO-A mission, then known as “2017 Sun Synch Express,” in September 2015. At the time the company planned to perform such dedicated rideshare missions on an annual basis, starting with that launch in the second half of 2017.

That mission was delayed by a year because of other delays in the SpaceX launch manifest. Blake said the company was open to doing similar missions in the future, but wanted to wait until after the SSO-A mission launched before making plans. “I think there’s definitely a chance of us doing more, like an SSO-B and an SSO-C and the like,” he said.


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