SpaceX has successfully launched a mission to deploy 64 satellites into Earth orbit – while also setting new records for launches and landings.
The company on Monday successfully launched Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express to a low Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Carrying 64 payloads, this mission represented the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to date. A series of six deployments occurred approximately 13 to 43 minutes after liftoff, after which Spaceflight began to command its own deployment sequences. Spaceflight’s deployments are expected to occur over a period of six hours.
Importantly, this was the first time one of SpaceX’s first stage boosters had successfully flown three times, a major step in the company’s goal of making their rockets reusable. Falcon 9’s first stage for the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission previously supported the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission in May 2018 and the Merah Putih mission in August 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the "Just Read the Instructions" droneship, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
A total of 64 spacecraft from 34 organizations were onboard and will be launched as part of the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission. The mission signifies Spaceflight’s first dedicated rideshare mission to a sun-synchronous low Earth orbit and represents the company’s effort to accommodate the growing number of domestic, international, government, and commercial customers seeking affordable rideshare options to launch their spacecraft in to orbit.
The mission includes 15 microsats and 49 cubesats from commercial and government entities, like universities, startups, and even a middle school. The payloads, which vary from technology demonstrations and imaging satellites to educational research endeavors, are from 17 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, U.K., Germany, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Poland, Canada, Brazil, and India.
Spaceflight also constructed a unique payload stack, which is one of the most complex and intricate endeavors that Spaceflight has undertaken. The smallsats will be integrated with a variety of dispensers and avionics to an upper free flyer and lower free flyer.