SpaceX released a batch of 143 spacecraft from space on Sunday morning as part of the new SmallSat Rideshare cost-cutting program, which broke the record for most satellites launched into space in a single launch.
The Transporter-1 mission has launched a potentially lucrative business line for SpaceX, which introduced in 2019 its SmallSat Rideshare program, essentially a parking lot for dozens of satellites of various shapes and sizes. The program offers relatively cheap access to space for small satellite companies, starting at $ 1 million for the first 485 pounds.
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After clearing an initial launch attempt on Saturday due to bad weather, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket took off 24 hours later from Cape Canaveral’s launch pad at 10AM ET, sending a combination of CubeSats the size of a shoebox and much heavier microsatellites. to the 326-polar orbit with a high mile – an unusual trajectory for the launch site in Florida. SpaceX launched its first polar mission from Florida in August last year.
The launch, the third so far for SpaceX this year, marks the highest number of satellites carried into space by a single rocket, a record previously held by an Indian satellite launch in 2017, carrying 104 satellites. SpaceX’s 143 spacecraft aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 include 48 Earth imaging satellites called SuperDoves by Planet, 17 small communications satellites for Toronto-based Kepler, and 30 small satellites for the United States and Europe, packaged by Berlin-based Kepler. Germany Exolaunch.
There are also small capsules of human ash on board, arranged by Celestis, a space flight company. Ten Starlink satellites are also on the move, moving SpaceX to the 1,000 mark for the number of active satellites in space supporting its broadband constellation.
DARPA, the Pentagon’s R&D agency, withdrew from the rideshare mission earlier this month after two 187-pound satellites were damaged during processing of the Cape Canaveral launch.
The Transporter-1 mission, which comes just four days after SpaceX launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into space, is in line with what should be a remarkable year in orbit as SpaceX, OneWeb and other companies compete to build huge constellations. of internet beam satellites. In the last 16 days, SpaceX has launched more satellites into space than the entire world launched in any year before 2013, according to data collected by Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer and expert tracking satellite.
Rideshare missions on larger rockets appeal to the growing demand for affordable launch services from small satellite companies, increasing competition with companies such as Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit with smaller rockets designed for special small satellite launches.