SpaceX launched a batch of 143 spacecraft to space from Florida on Sunday morning under the company’s new cost-saving SmallSat Rideshare program, breaking the record for most satellites lifted into space by a single launch.
The Transporter-1 mission launches a potentially lucrative business line for SpaceX, which in 2019 unveiled its SmallSat Rideshare program, essentially an interconnection to dozens of satellites in various shapes and sizes. The program provides relatively inexpensive access to space for small satellite companies starting at $ 1 million for the first 485 pounds.
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After scrubbing an initial launch attempt on Saturday due to bad weather, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted 24 hours later from its Cape Canaveral Space Force Station launch pad at 6 p.m. 10 ET and sent a mix of shoebox-sized CubeSats and much heavier microsatellites to a 326-mile-high polar orbit – an unusual orbit to a Florida launch site. SpaceX launched its first polar mission from Florida in August last year.
The launch, SpaceX’s third so far this year, marks the most satellites launched into space on a single rocket, a record previously held by an Indian satellite launch in 2017 with 104 satellites. The 143 spacecraft aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 include 48 terrestrial satellite satellites called Planet SuperDoves, 17 small communications satellites to Toronto-based Kepler and 30 small satellites to the United States and Europe packed by Berlin, Germany-based Exolaunch.
On board the flight there are also small capsules of human ashes arranged by Celestis, an aerospace memorial company. Ten Starlink satellites also hitch a ride and inch SpaceX toward the 1000 mark for the number of active satellites in space that support its broadband Internet configuration.
DARPA, the Pentagon’s R&D agency, withdrew from the rideshare mission earlier this month after the two 187-pound satellites were damaged during the launch in Cape Canaveral.
The Transporter 1 mission, which comes just four days after SpaceX launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into space, is keeping pace with what is set to be a remarkably eventful year in orbit as SpaceX, OneWeb and other companies struggling to build large constellations of internet radiation. satellites. Over the past 16 days, SpaceX has launched more satellites into space than the entire world launched any year before 2013, according to data compiled by Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer and expert satellite tracker.
Rideshare missions on larger rockets appeal to a growing need for affordable launch services from small satellite companies, increasing competition with companies like Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit with smaller rockets tailored for dedicated small satellite launches.