Render of the Launcher's Orbiter vehicle during separation. Credits: Launcher Inc.

Launcher’s Orbiter spacecraft failed in the launch debut

During SpaceX Transporter-6 mission Launcher Orbiter vehicle made its debut. However the payloads deployment failed due to an issue on the GPS antenna system

On Feb. 16, 2023, the American company Launcher stated that its first orbital transfer vehicle failed to accomplish the mission. The Orbiter SN1 was successfully launched aboard a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket during the Transporter-6 mission.

After the liftoff, the Orbiter spacecraft correctly separated thanks to the Launcher’s 24” separation system. The vehicle successfully communicated to the ground during its first pass over the ground station and kept sending data for the duration of the expected battery life.

Unfortunately, due to a failure of the GPS antenna, the spacecraft failed to correctly orient itself and the solar panels weren’t able to generate enough power. Orbiter SN1 stopped operating without deploying the customer payloads. 

The company will launch an upgraded version of the vehicle on the next mission. Orbiter SN3 will reach orbit in June 2023 with the SpaceX Transporter-8 mission, and in October 2023 with Transporter-9.


Transporter-6 mission

On Jan. 3, 2023, at 9:56 a.m. EST (14:56 UTC) a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40, carrying the Transporter-6 mission. This was the first orbital launch of the year and it carried 114 satellites involving 82 individual deployments.

The first stage B1060 completed its 15th successful flight, landing eight and a half minutes after liftoff at Cape’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ1). This booster previously launched the Transporter-2 mission, a GPS satellite, two missions for Turksat and Intelsat, and 10 Starlink missions.

B1060 first stage successfully landing back at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 (LZ1) for the its 15th flight during Transporter-6 mission. Credits: SpaceX
B1060 first stage successfully landing back at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 (LZ1) for the its 15th flight during Transporter-6 mission. Credits: SpaceX

The payloads

A portion of the satellites was deployed by several orbital transfer vehicles of private companies.

Launcher’s Orbiter SN1 hosted eight customers: TRL11, Alba orbital, Beyond Burials, Logitech Mevo, NPC Spacemind, Innova Space, Bronco Space, and Stanford Student Space Initiative. With an official statement, the Launcher company apologized for the loss of the payloads.

“We would like to sincerely apologize to our customers and their team, partners, and end customers. We have been in constant communication with them since launch day, including recovery attempts. We have committed to accommodations beyond our contractual requirements to our customers on this mission.”

—Launcher Inc. official Statement
Orbiter SN-1 being prepared for its launch debut on the Transporter-6 mission. Credits: Launcher Inc.
Orbiter SN1 being prepared for its launch debut for the Transporter-6 mission. Credits: Launcher Inc.

The Italian company D-Orbit launched two ION Satellite Carriers, ION SCV-007, and ION SCV-008 carrying a variety of spacecrafts and some hosted payloads like a propulsion system for Genergo, a satellite hardware for Cryptosat and a SWIR camera for IAC.

The American spaceflight company Momentus launched its second test flight of the Vigoride tug carrying a spacecraft for Qosmosys and Caltech’s Space Solar Power Demonstration One (SSPD-1).

EPIC Aerospace debuted with its Chimera LEO-1 tug.


About Launcher

Founded in 2017, Launcher is a US aerospace company based in California that specializes in the delivery of small satellites. Their main goal is to ensure more affordable access to space for customers thanks to 3D manufacturing and high-efficiency engines with lower fuel consumption.

In February 2019, the company presented its E-2 closed-cycle engine. The engine is powered with liquid oxygen and kerosene, generating a 10 ton of thrust at liftoff. The 3D-printed combustion chamber is produced by the german company AMCM using its specialized M4K printer. 

Firing test during Launcher's E-2 engine development. Credits: Launcher Inc.
Firing test during Launcher’s E-2 engine development. Credits: Launcher Inc.

In Feb. 2023 Launcher was acquired by Vast, a startup company developing artificial gravity space stations. The combined company will move into a new facility in Long Beach, California. The 80 Launcher employees will join Vast’s 40.

Before the acquisition by Vast, Launcher was developing Light, its own 3-stage small launch vehicle. The Light rocket would have used a single E-2 engine in the first stage and it was designed to carry up to 150 kg (330 lbs) of payloads to LEO, and 105 kg (231 lbs) to SSO.

Max Haot, President of the new combined company, announced that they will no longer focus on the Light rocket project.


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Francesco Sebastiano Moro

Francesco Sebastiano Moro

Aerospace engineering student at University of Padua, passionate of space and aerospace sector.

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