Musk’s SpaceX Launches 64 Satellites In Record-Breaking Mission

Musk’s SpaceX Launches 64 Satellites In Record-Breaking Mission

Monday's flight got underway at 10:32 a.m. PST (GMT-8; 1:32 p.m. EST) when the Falcon 9's nine Merlin 1C first stage engines ignited with a rush of flame and steaming exhaust, pushing the slender 130-foot-tall rocket away from pad 4-East at Vandenberg.

It marked one of the largest satellite ride-sharing missions ever launched and the most crowded single mission in USA history, according to Spaceflight, SpaceX's customer for the launch.

A Falcon 9 launches to orbit for an unprecedented third time.

The experienced booster then came in for a picture-perfect landing on a drone ship stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

This was the company's 18th launch of a previously flown first stage.

SpaceX launched a rocket carrying a payload of 64 satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base on December 3, 2018.

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Instead of just using one rocket for one mission, like traditional launch providers, SpaceX wants to refurbish and reuse their rockets to make it cheaper to fly to space in the first place. Reusing the nose cone, also known as the fairing, could save millions of dollars for each launch. "Nothing wrong with a little swim".

During the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission, the Falcon 9 rocket must deliver 64 spacecraft from various commercial and government organizations to low-Earth orbit.

"A series of six deployments, occurring between 13 to 43 minutes after liftoff, will be followed by Spaceflight's own deployment sequences", explained SpaceX in a statement.

Some of those smaller satellites aim to build an internet network capable of supporting smart devices back on Earth's surface. The devices, which span a variety of shapes and sizes, rode to space affixed to sides of a large structure, called a payload stack, that was shielded by the Falcon 9's fairing during launch. The rocket also deployed an experimental astrobiology satellite developed by a group of middle school students from Florida, CNBC reports.

Spaceflight declined to release a full list of what satellites and payloads are launching aboard its mission.

Additional payloads range from the U.S. Air Force's STPSat-5 spacecraft to Orbital Reflector, a cubesat carrying an inflatable sculpture from the Nevada Museum of Art and artist Trevor Paglen that will remain in orbit, visible from the ground, for several weeks.

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