SpaceX to launch 64 satellites in record-breaking mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with 64 satellites bound for orbit on the SSO-A mission that launched on Monday Dec. 3 2018

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with 64 satellites bound for orbit on the SSO-A mission that launched on Monday Dec. 3 2018

The launch, procured by smallsat rideshare company Spaceflight Industries, was the first time SpaceX reused the same first-stage booster for three missions.

SpaceX launched the same Falcon 9 rocket first stage for the third time on Monday.

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

SpaceX also tried again Monday to recover the rocket's fairing, the bulging cone at the top of the rocket that shields satellites during launch.

SpaceX also attempted to use an enormous net atop an ocean vessel to catch the Falcon's aerodynamic shield over the payload that was jettisoned at high altitude and fell back to Earth.

"Falcon fairing halves missed the net, but touched down softly in the water", he said in a tweet.

SSO-A mission logo. Image Credit SpaceX
SSO-A mission logo. Image Credit SpaceX

The shield adds another reusable element to the spacecraft.

Talk about ride-sharing. The 64 satellites were launched from 34 organizations and was one of the largest satellite ride-sharing missions ever launched, and the most crowded single mission in United States history, according to Spaceflight, SpaceX's customer for the launch.

This article was from The Canadian Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. They came from 34 companies and organizations across 17 countries.

Once it blasts off, the rocket will carry 64 small satellites into orbit for multiple customers from around the world. The interstage's mechanical actuators are strong enough to support - at a minimum - the entire weight of an empty Falcon 9 booster, allowing SpaceX to simply attach the jig and lift Falcon 9 off of the drone ship with any number of large but commercially available cranes.

"We are committed to delivering superior satellite connectivity, and today's launch is a valuable step in developing our direct-to-orbit communications capability", co-founder and CTO Dr David Haley said. The mission is one of the largest satellite ride sharing mission ever launched and is said to the mission that put the most satellites into orbit in one swoop. Interestingly the booster isn't done ferrying things into space just yet. In theory, B1047's second landing should by no means be the rocket's last: if Falcon 9 Block 5's first stage upgrades are as successful as they hoped to be, the rocket could well see a productive life of 100 launches or more between now and BFR's complete takeover. (The gritty rocket also reinforces the notion that SpaceX is a company that gets stuff done in the launch business).

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