SpaceX Launches 64 Satellites into Orbit at Once
SpaceX made company history today by using its most-used rockets to send 64 satellites into orbit.
The launch finally occurred after several delays triggered by inclement weather and several inspections to the rocket. It also marked the 19th successful launch of 2018, already surpassing the 18 launches made in 2017.
CEO Elon Musk opted to use a rocket booster previously used twice, marking the first time the company sent the same booster up for a third time.
The SSO-A mission launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California between 1:32 p.m. and 2 p.m. EST. Its success put it in the record books as the largest ride-share mission in US history.
That success came in part due to SpaceX’s customer for this mission: Spaceflight. For several years, the company worked on building relationships between small satellite companies and launch providers. Spaceflight has been called the “Uber service” for space, wanting to connect small sat companies with ‘drivers’ of larger payloads able to get them there.
"We started off just selling the excess capacity on whatever launches were out there," Spaceflight president Curt Blake told CNN Business in a recent interview. "Then, we said, 'Wow demand is so big, we should just buy a whole rocket ourselves.' That's how this mission came to be."
The satellites launched today came from 34 companies across 17 countries. Small cubesat units made up 49 of the small satellites. While the satellites were small, they represented a variety of interests and groups.
"Among the spacecraft onboard, 23 are from universities, 19 are imaging satellites, 23 are technology demonstrations, two are art exhibits, and one is from a high school," Spaceflight officials said.
The satellites launched do everything from tracking airplanes and ships to experimental astrobiology satellites built by middle school students.
“Spaceflight also constructed a unique payload stack, which is one of the most complex and intricate endeavors that Spaceflight has undertaken,” SpaceX said in a press statement. “The smallsats will be integrated with a variety of dispensers and avionics to an upper free flyer and lower free flyer.”
Tweets from Elon Musk indicated the Falcon's fairing halves missed the safety net, landing them in the water.
"Plan is to dry them out & launch again," Musk wrote. "Nothing wrong with a little swim."
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