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by | Sep 21, 2016

Pathfinder-1 is ready to launch!

Pathfinder-1 Mission Blog #3

Question: What do you call a high resolution telescopic camera that is sitting on top of 241 Metric Tons (532,000 lbs) of explosives?

Answer: Pathfinder-1!

Pathfinder-1 is now fueled, integrated to the separation system, and sitting 120 feet above the ground on top of the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).  Pathfinder-1 is ready for launch!

The Pathfinder team finished processing and integration tasks this week at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India. Here’s what we did:

  • Fueled Pathfinder-1 with about 8 lbs of liquid butane fuel which will allow the satellite to responsibly deorbit at the end of her mission, leaving no “space garbage” behind.
  • Integrated the base of Pathfinder-1 to a Motorized Lightband separation system made by Planetary Systems of Silver Spring, Maryland. A separation system is what holds the satellite to the rocket during launch, and then separates the satellite from the rocket when commanded in orbit. The Motorized Lightband has a unique system that gently pushes Pathfinder-1 away from the PSLV rocket without the use of pyrotechnics like many other systems.
  • Bolted Pathfinder-1 to the secondary satellite adapter plate along with six other micro satellites that will accompany Pathfinder-1 to orbit.

Of the six other micro satellites that are going up with Pathfinder-1, two are from Indian universities, three are from the Algerian Space Agency, and one is from the University of Toronto. It feels a little bit like the United Nations here, with engineers from India, Algeria, England, Canada, and the U.S. speaking Hindi, French, Arabic, English, and “the Queens” English. (Hey, I love my friends from Surrey, but I still give them a hard time!). Folks here are dedicated space professionals and have been very helpful and cooperative. My experience here reinforces my belief that the desire to explore space is endemic to the human spirit, it is important to improving our world here on Earth, and space exploration can bring different nations together.


Here are the details of the upcoming launch on September 25/26 (depending on what time zone you are in):

  • Liftoff is scheduled for Sunday, 8:44 pm Seattle time (PST).
  • It will take about 17 minutes from launch to place the primary Indian satellite into orbit.
  • Then the PSLV Stage 4 will change orbits, which requires two short firings of the main engine on opposite sides of the Earth.
  • Once in the new orbit, the micro satellites will start separating. Pathfinder-1 should separate around 11:30 pm PST, but we will not know until we get confirmation from the PSLV team.
  • We expect to make contact with Pathfinder-1 from the Spaceflight Networks global ground stations shortly after separation.
  • Our team will continue to monitor communications 24 hours a day from our operations center here in Seattle.

Note that all times are subject to change, as they always are for a rocket launch. Follow our Twitter handle @Blacksky_Inc for updates.

Ad Astra,

Jeff Roberts, Senior Mission Manager