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Scout Space telescope to hitch a ride on ABL rocket

Scout Space, a startup specializing in space domain awareness through in-space observation, announced June 10 it signed a launch services agreement with ABL Space Systems. 

The agreement is for the launch of Scout’s “Owlet-01” telescope on ABL’s third flight of its RS1 small-satellite launcher scheduled for later this year — contingent on the success of ABL’s forthcoming second launch attempt.

Based in Reston, Virginia, Scout develops optical sensors for space traffic management and other applications. The Owlet is a version of the company’s Owl telescope aimed at military applications in geostationary and cislunar orbits.

ABL Space, based in El Segundo, California, has yet to successfully launch its two-stage RS1 rocket. Its first attempt in January 2023 experienced an anomaly and the company is gearing up for its second try.

The Owlet will be integrated on a 16U cubesat and will perform a “risk reduction mission,” said Philip Hover-Smoot, CEO of Scout Space. The company wants to validate the optical sensor and demonstrate its data analytics software.  

Hover-Smoot said he could not discuss the pricing for the ABL launch. He said the decision to choose ABL was driven by timing considerations. 

“The market is fairly tight right now,” he said. Scout explored the possibility of booking a ride on a SpaceX Transporter smallsat rideshare, but would have had to wait more than a year for an available slot. ABL, on the other hand, has committed to launching the Owlet mission before the end of the year.

“We are realistic about the risks associated with launching on a new vehicle, but we’re confident in ABL,” said Hover-Smoot.

Dan Piemont, president and chief financial officer of ABL Space Systems, said in a statement: “We’re excited that Scout Space has chosen RS1 to deliver their critical technology demonstrator to orbit and look forward to strengthening our partnership through this mission and into the future.”

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