Much like ridesharing via Uber on Earth, Elon Musk-run SpaceX has successfully launched its new cost-cutting rideshare mission with 143 small satellites — a new record for the most spaceships deployed on a single mission — into space.
Called the Transporter-1 mission, the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on Sunday from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It flew south along the eastern coast of Florida on its way to space, the company said.
“Falcon 9 launches 143 spacecraft to orbit, the most ever deployed on a single mission — completing SpaceX’s first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Programme mission,” SpaceX said in a tweet.
According to SpaceX, the rideshare programme offers cheap access to space for small satellite companies, starting at USD 1 million for a 200-kg satellite.
Much like a “rideshare Uber”, a company’s small satellite can hitch a ride to space with this new mission.
The SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sent a mix of shoebox-sized CubeSats and much heavier micro-satellites to a 326-mile-high polar orbit.
The 143 satellites include 48 Earth imaging satellites, 17 tiny communications satellites, and 30 small satellites for the US and Europe by Germany-based Exolaunch.
“The sheer number of payloads/satellites was well above the limit needed to break both the US and world records for most satellites launched on a single mission,” NASA said in a statement.
SpaceX broke the record previously held by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which launched 104 satellites in 2017.
SpaceX delayed the launch one day because of unfavorable weather. On January 22 Musk, also chief executive of Tesla Inc, wrote on Twitter: “Launching many small satellites for a wide range of customers tomorrow. Excited about offering low-cost access to orbit for small companies!”
SpaceX’s previous record is 64 satellites on the SSO-A mission in December 2018, a flight that featured Spaceflight Industries’ Sherpa satellite dispenser.
Transporter-1 was the second mission since 1969 to use the polar corridor route from Florida.