Over the last 3 years, Planet has launched 14 times from 4 different countries (U.S., Russia, Japan and India), totalling 179 satellites (of which 145 successfully reached space). For satellite manufacturers, launch is the lifeblood of the mission. It doesn’t matter how amazing a satellite we have designed and built if we can’t get it into space. As the Director of Launch at Planet, I have seen all the highs and lows (pun intended) of trying to get our Doves into space, and we’ve really seen it all – launch successes, launch delays, and launch failures.
At Planet, we maintain a diversified launch manifest in order to mitigate the risks inherent in the launch industry. Launches can get delayed by several months, or even years. Launches also run the risk of failing (we have 2 launch failures under our belt). In recognition of how unpredictable launch can be, we engage with launch providers from all around the world to try to find multiple launch opportunities for our satellites – in essence, putting many eggs in many baskets. We remain agnostic as to the specific launch vehicle or launch partner we work with; it’s more about finding launches to the right orbit and in the right timeframe at a reasonable price.
In addition to all the traditional launch providers we contract with, we have also engaged with emerging nanolaunch providers. recently announced a launch contract signed with Rocket Lab for a number of dedicated launches on their Electron launch vehicle. Nanolaunchers bring a much needed supply of launch opportunities specifically tailored to small payloads such as ourselves, which will nicely round out the current “secondary” launch market that we will continue to utilize.
The Electron Launch Vehicle. Image: Rocket Lab
Planet explores launch opportunities from all sources available, in the U.S. and abroad, in order to maintain and replenish our fleet of Doves. We are an equal opportunity launch customer, and we look forward to the launch industry continuing to mold and adapt to the launch needs of the new wave of the Small Satellite industry led by Planet.