RegimeLow Earth orbit

Orbcomm is a family of low Earth orbit communications satellites, operated by the United States satellite communications company Orbcomm. As of July 2014, 51 such satellites have orbited Earth, with 50 still continuing to do so.[not verified in body]

Satellite types


ApplicationsTechnology Demonstrator
Launch mass22 kg (49 lb)
Related spacecraft
DerivativesOrbcomm-CDS 1,2
Orbcomm-CDS 1,2
Orbcomm-CDS 1,2
ApplicationsTechnology Demonstrator
Launch mass13.6 kg (30 lb)
Related spacecraft
Derived fromOrbcomm-X
← Orbcomm-X Orbcomm-OG1
Orbcomm-CDS 3
ManufacturerPO Polyot (bus)
OSC (payload)
ApplicationsTechnology Demonstrator
Launch mass22 kg (49 lb)
Related spacecraft

Orbcomm-CDS (Concept or Capability Demonstration Satellites) are spacecraft which were launched to test equipment and communication techniques used by the other satellites. The first three CDS satellites, Orbcomm-X, CDS-1 and CDS-2, were launched before any operational satellites, in order to validate the systems to be used in the operational constellation.

Orbcomm-X, also known as Datacomm-X, was launched in 1991. It carried communications and GPS experiments. Initially, the spacecraft was reported healthy, but communication was lost after just one orbit.[1]

CDS-3 was launched in 2008, along with the 5 Quick Launch satellites. It contained experiments for relaying signals from the United States Coast Guard Automatic Identification System through the satellite constellation.[2] It was designated Orbcomm FM-29,[2] having acquired most of the communications payload from another satellite that was never launched. The avionics bus of this unlaunched satellite was later used on the TacSat-1 satellite. TacSat-1 was never launched, either.


Country of originUnited States
ApplicationsCommunications fleet
Spacecraft typeCommunications Satellite
Launch mass40 to 45 kg (88 to 99 lb)
RegimeLEO, mostly 720 km × 720 km × 45°
Design life4 years
StatusOut of production

Orbcomm-1 or Orbcomm-OG1 satellites make up most of the current Orbcomm constellation. 36 were built, of which 35 were launched. The unlaunched satellite, original designation Orbcomm FM-29, was first cannibalized for parts for the CDS-3 satellite and then rebuilt as TacSat-1 for the United States military.[3]


ManufacturerPO Polyot (bus)
OSC (payload)
ApplicationsFleet replenishment
Spacecraft typeCommunications Satellite
Launch mass80 kg (180 lb)
RegimeLEO, 672 km × 661 km (418 mi × 411 mi) × 48.45°
Design life8-10 years (actual achieved ~2 years)
Related spacecraft
Derived fromOrbcomm-CDS 3
← Orbcomm-OG1 Orbcomm-OG2

Orbcomm Quick Launch (Orbcomm-QL) satellites are satellites which were intended to replenish the constellation. The first five such satellites were launched in 2008, with one more planned, but never launched. The satellites are based on the CDS-3 satellite, which was launched on the same rocket as the first five QL spacecraft. The sixth will be launched as a secondary payload to a Russian Government satellite, also on a Kosmos-3M. Orbcomm holds options for two further satellites.[4] The satellites experienced a power system anomaly, and Orbcomm filed an insurance claim on the satellites for $50 million.[5] Orbcomm reported in 2011 that the last remaining Quick Launch satellite had failed.[6]


ManufacturerSierra Nevada Corporation (prime)
Argon ST (payload)
Country of originUnited States
Spacecraft typeCommunications Satellite
Launch mass172 kg (379 lb)
Power400 watts[7]
EquipmentOrbcomm and AIS
RegimeLow Earth orbit, 750 km × 750 km × 45°
Design life5 years (planned) [7]
← Orbcomm-QL
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched the ORBCOMM-OG2 on 14 July 2014.

Orbcomm Generation 2 (Orbcomm-OG2) second-generation satellites are intended to supplement and eventually replace the current first generation constellation. Eighteen satellites were ordered by 2008 — nominally intended to be launched in three groups of six during 2010–2014 — and by 2015 have all been launched, Orbcomm three flights. Orbcomm has options for a further thirty OG2 satellites.[8] The satellites were launched by SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Originally, they were to launch on the smaller Falcon 1 launch vehicle.[9]

The first (Orbcomm OG2-1) of these satellites was launched on 8 October 2012 as secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.0 flight. The primary payload was for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS).[10][11] On this launch, the Falcon 9 had a failure in one of its nine first stage engines 79 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida. This prevented the OG2-1 prototype satellite from being deployed into the proper orbit.[12] The satellite functioned as planned during the short time it was in orbit. This allowed a subset of satellite systems to be flight-test validated. The orbit of the satellite was unable to be raised to a sustainable altitude due to contractual limitations put on SpaceX by the primary payload owner, NASA. Two days after its launch the OG2-1 prototype re-entered and burned up in the atmosphere of Earth. Orbcomm claimed the mission a total loss for launch insurance purposes.[13][14]

The second launch, with a constellation of six OG2 satellites, launched on 14 July 2014.[7][15] The satellites were launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle. Following the end of the use of the first stage for the Orbcomm orbital mission, SpaceX used the booster stage — which would ordinarily be destroyed on reentering the Earth's atmosphere and impact with the ocean — for a flight test of a number of reusable launch vehicle technologies to safely reenter and execute a "soft vertical landing" on the ocean surface, where it successfully decelerated, made a successful reentry, landing burn and deployment of its landing legs. The first stage was not recovered as the hull integrity was breached on landing or on the subsequent "tip over and body slam".[16]

The third launch, with the final 11 second-generation OG2 satellites, was successfully completed December 21, 2015.[17] It was initially scheduled for late-2014, but ORBCOMM delayed the launch until at least mid-2015 [18] finally resetting the launch timeframe to mid-August through late-September 2015.[19] The launch date was further delayed by the rocket failure on the SpaceX Falcon 9 Flight 19 launch in June 2015, which ultimately delayed the OG2 launch further out to late 2015.[17][20] The satellites were placed by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle "within a fraction of a degree in inclination and 5 km (3.1 mi) in altitude of the intended orbit", and by 9 January 2016, were in the middle of on-orbit testing, while executing propulsion maneuvers that had spread the 11 satellites over a 6,400 km (4,000 mi) orbital arc.[21]

The ORBCOMM OG2 satellites are being manufactured by an industry team led by Sierra Nevada Corporation and Argon ST, a Boeing subsidiary. A total of 18 ORBCOMM next-generation OG2 satellites were in production as of February 2013. ORBCOMM OG2 satellites will provide enhanced ORBCOMM messaging capabilities, increased capacity, and automatic identification systems (AIS) service. The agreement with SpaceX to launch 18 satellites on its Falcon 9 rockets was signed in December 2012 for a total cost of US$42.6 million.[22]


Launch Date/Time (GMT) Carrier Rocket Launch Site Satellite Alternative
01:46, 17 July 1991 Ariane 4 (40) ELA-2, CSG Orbcomm-X Datacomm-X Early loss of communication
14:30, 9 February 1993[23] Pegasus NB-52B, KSC SLF Orbcomm CDS-1 OXP No longer operational
13:56, 25 April 1993 Pegasus NB-52B, Edwards AFB Orbcomm CDS-2 VSUME No longer operational
13:48, 3 April 1995[23] Pegasus-H L-1011, Vandenberg AFB Orbcomm-F1 FM1 No longer operational
Orbcomm-F2 FM2 No longer operational
19:11, 23 December 1997[23] Pegasus-XL/HAPS L-1011, Wallops Island Orbcomm-A1 FM5
Orbcomm-A2 FM6
Orbcomm-A3 FM7
Orbcomm-A4 FM8
Orbcomm-A5 FM9
Orbcomm-A6 FM10
Orbcomm-A7 FM11
Orbcomm-A8 FM12
13:20, 10 February 1998 Taurus LC-576E, Vandenberg AFB Orbcomm-G1 FM3 No longer operational
Orbcomm-G2 FM4
16:24, 2 August 1998[23] Pegasus-XL/HAPS L-1011, Wallops Island Orbcomm-B1 FM13
Orbcomm-B2 FM14
Orbcomm-B3 FM15
Orbcomm-B4 FM16 No longer operational. Experienced in-orbit break-up on 22 December 2018 resulting in 34 trackable objects.[24][25]
Orbcomm-B5 FM17 No longer operational
Orbcomm-B6 FM18
Orbcomm-B7 FM19
Orbcomm-B8 FM20
05:06, 23 September 1998[23] Pegasus-XL/HAPS L-1011, Wallops Island Orbcomm-C1 FM21
Orbcomm-C2 FM22 No longer operational
Orbcomm-C3 FM23
Orbcomm-C4 FM24 No longer operational
Orbcomm-C5 FM25 No longer operational
Orbcomm-C6 FM26 No longer operational
Orbcomm-C7 FM27
Orbcomm-C8 FM28 No longer operational
18:53, 4 December 1999[23] Pegasus-XL/HAPS L-1011, Wallops Island Orbcomm-D2 FM30
Orbcomm-D3 FM31
Orbcomm-D4 FM32 Semi-operational
Orbcomm-D5 FM33 No longer operational
Orbcomm-D6 FM34
Orbcomm-D7 FM35
Orbcomm-D8 FM36 No longer operational. Experienced in-orbit break-up on 11 March 2023 resulting in a number of untracked objects.[26]
06:36, 19 June 2008 Kosmos-3M Site 107, Kapustin Yar Orbcomm CDS-3 FM29 No longer operational
Orbcomm-QL1 FM37 No longer operational
Orbcomm-QL2 FM38 No longer operational
Orbcomm-QL3 FM39 No longer operational
Orbcomm-QL4 FM40 No longer operational
Orbcomm-QL5 FM41 No longer operational
05:31, 12 October 2011 PSLV-CA FLP, Satish Dhawan VesselSat-1 FM42 No longer operational (since end of 2015)
03:17, 9 January 2012 Long March 4B LC-9, Taiyuan VesselSat-2 FM43 No longer operational (since January 2016)
00:35, 8 October 2012 Falcon 9 v1.0 (Flight 4) SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Orbcomm OG2-1 FM101 Demo unit launch as a secondary payload, at low cost and with attendant lower launch services. The primary payload owner did not allow the second orbit raising burn, and thus OG2-1 was placed in a much lower orbit. Various tests of the new satellite design were completed, but OG2-1 never became fully operational. The sat reentered in only four days.[13][27]
15:15, 14 July 2014 Falcon 9 v1.1 (Flight 10) SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Orbcomm OG2 × 6
  • FM103
  • FM104
  • FM106
  • FM107
  • FM109
  • FM111
FM104, FM106, and FM111 are no longer operational [28]
01:19, 22 December 2015 Falcon 9 FT (Flight 20) SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Orbcomm OG2 × 11
  • FM105
  • FM108
  • FM110
  • FM112
  • FM113
  • FM114
  • FM115
  • FM116
  • FM117
  • FM118
  • FM119
FM105 and FM119 are no longer operational.

See also


  1. ^ "Orbcomm-X". NASA. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b Krebs, Gunter. "Orbcomm-CDS 3 (Orbcomm J1, Orbcomm FM29)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  3. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Orbcomm 1 - 43". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  4. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Orbcomm 37 - 41". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  5. ^ Jai C.S., ORBCOMM Reaches Settlement on Satellite Insurance Claim Archived 2010-01-01 at the Wayback Machine December 28, 2009
  6. ^ "ORBCOMM Inc. - FORM 8-K - January 31, 2011". Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d Graham, William (14 July 2014). "SpaceX's Falcon 9 set for fourth attempt to launch Orbcomm OG2 mission". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  8. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Orbcomm (2nd generation)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  9. ^ "SpaceX Wins Orbcomm Contract to Launch 18 Satellite Constellation". Satellite Today. 3 September 2009. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2009.
  10. ^ "Orbcomm Eagerly Awaits Launch of New Satellite on Next Falcon 9" (Press release). SpaceNews. 25 May 2012. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  11. ^ "International Space Station Program Status" (PDF). NASA. 23 July 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2012. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ Clark, Stephen (8 October 2012). "Orbcomm satellite in wrong orbit after Falcon 9 launch". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  13. ^ a b de Selding, Peter B. (11 October 2012). "Orbcomm Craft Launched by Falcon 9 Falls out of Orbit". SpaceNews. Retrieved 14 April 2023. Orbcomm requested that SpaceX carry one of their small satellites (weighing a few hundred pounds, vs. Dragon at over 12,000 pounds)... The higher the orbit, the more test data [Orbcomm] can gather, so they requested that we attempt to restart and raise altitude. NASA agreed to allow that, but only on condition that there be substantial propellant reserves, since the orbit would be close to the space station. It is important to appreciate that Orbcomm understood from the beginning that the orbit-raising maneuver was tentative. They accepted that there was a high risk of their satellite remaining at the Dragon insertion orbit. SpaceX would not have agreed to fly their satellite otherwise, since this was not part of the core mission and there was a known, material risk of no altitude raise.
  14. ^ "Falcon Launch Report - Orbcomm craft falls to Earth, company claims total loss". Spaceflight Now. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  15. ^ "OG2 Launch". 16 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  16. ^ https://twitter.com/elonmusk "Rocket booster reentry, landing burn and leg deploy were good, but lost hull integrity right after splashdown (aka kaboom) ... Detailed review of rocket telemetry needed to tell if due to initial splashdown or subsequent tip over and body slam". Elon Musk SpaceX CEO
  17. ^ a b de Selding, Peter B. (16 October 2015). "SpaceX Changes its Falcon 9 Return-to-flight Plans". SpaceNews. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  18. ^ "The Next Generation in Satellite M2M Technology: OG2 Mission 2 Coming Soon". Orbcomm. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  19. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (8 May 2015). "Orbcomm to SpaceX: Launch our Satellites Before October". SpaceNews. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  20. ^ "SpaceX ORBCOMM-2 Mission" (PDF). press kit. SpaceX. 21 December 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2015. This mission also marks SpaceX's return-to-flight as well as its first attempt to land a first stage on land. The landing of the first stage is a secondary test objective.
  21. ^ OG2 Mission 2 Launch Update ORBCOMM, 8 January 2016, accessed 10 January 2016
  22. ^ Messier, Doug (27 December 2012). "Orbcomm, SpaceX Reach New Launch Agreement on OG2 Satellite Launch". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Wade, Mark. "Pegasus". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  24. ^ U.S. Air Force’s 18 Space Control Squadron [@18spcs] (1 January 2019). "#18SPCS confirmed breakup of ORBCOMM OG1 sat FM 16, #25417, on 22 Dec @ 0712 UTC - tracking 34 pieces - no indication caused by collision" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 1 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019 – via Twitter.
  25. ^ "FIRST UP Satcom: Orbcomm satellite breaks up". Space News. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  26. ^ @planet4589 (17 March 2023). "Breakup of the Orbcomm FM36 satellite reported by @18thSDS - no objects cataloged yet. TLEs show a 0.4 km downward jump in orbital height on the reported breakup date of Mar 11" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ Orbcomm craft falls to Earth, company claims total loss
  28. ^ Veronica Magan (7 August 2015). "Orbcomm's Record Growth Not Stopped by OG2 Satellite Loss". Via Satellite.