SpaceX deploys 64 satellites in one launch under “rideshare” agreement
Image credit: reuters
Yesterday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully deployed 64 satellites that were aboard the vessel in what the company dubbed a “rideshare”.
The launch saw the largest number of satellites deployed from a single US-based rocket and points towards a future where sending satellites into space becomes cheaper than ever for private companies.
A series of six deployments occurred approximately 13 to 43 minutes after lift-off, after which the following deployments happened gradually over a 6-hour period.
One of the satellites was a British-built nanosat, Vesta, which will support new two-way maritime information services between ship and shore. The payload was designed and built by Honeywell UK in Aylesbury and the spacecraft by Surrey Satellites (SSTL) in Guilford.
The SpaceX mission, dubbed SSO-A, also marked the third voyage to space for the same Falcon 9 rocket – another milestone for SpaceX’s cost-cutting reusable rocket technology.
The Falcon 9 blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10:34 am local time (18:34 GMT) carrying satellites from 34 different companies, government agencies and universities, including the University of Illinois.
SpaceX said the mission was “one of the most complex and intricate endeavours” for Seattle-based startup Spaceflight, the ride-share company that arranged passage for each satellite maker.
Following the stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on its “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
The company’s founder Elon Musk indicated the “fairing halves” of the Falcon 9, which were used to protect the satellites during their assent, hit the water rather than the net set up to catch them but that his engineers would attempt to reuse them for a later launch anyway.
The mission comes days after India fired a rocket carrying 31 satellites into space.
In November SpaceX received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch thousands of satellites into orbit, adding to its proposed satellite constellation.