The Falcon 9 rocket is about to be launched for the Transporter 1 mission on the launch pad in Florida.
SpaceX added another rocket to the record books on Sunday with the first mission of its “rideshare” program, which will launch dozens of small satellites into space.
The Falcon 9 rocket, which lifted off Florida’s Cape Canaveral, put 143 spacecraft into orbit – a new world record for the most spacecraft fired at the same time, surpassing the 104 mark set by an Indian PSLV rocket in February 2017.
The SpaceX mission, known as the Transporter-1, was the first for the company’s SmallSat Rideshare program.
While SpaceX is announcing a launch on a Falcon 9 for a single satellite for $ 62 million, the company’s SmallSat Rideshare launches offer smaller satellites – as small as a mailbox – the option of only $ 1 million for 200 kilograms circle.
Such ridesharing has become more common in the space industry. International competitors like Vega from Arianespace want to claim a share of the growing market for small satellites.
Carpooling offers another option for low-cost satellites looking for a ride into orbit, with smaller rockets like Rocket Labs Electron offering a bespoke approach.
“SpaceX offers competitive ridesharing that uses much of Starlink’s product launches,” said Phil Smith, senior analyst at Bryce Space and Technology, to CNBC.
The SpaceX service isn’t entirely on-demand, Smith said, but companies can pay a launch premium based on their schedule rather than the main customer’s schedule.
“There’s a pretty reliable ‘bus route,'” Smith said of SpaceX, “while companies like Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit could be likened to standby taxis that will get your satellite where you want it as quickly as possible.”
Elon Musk’s company launched 133 satellites for a variety of government and residential customers, as well as 10 of its own Starlink satellites.
SpaceX customers aboard Transporter-1 include: Planet Labs, Exolaunch, D-Orbit, Kepler Communications, Spaceflight Inc., Nanoracks, NASA and Capella Space as well as iQPS, Loft Orbital, Spire Global, ICEYE, HawkEye 360, Astrocast and the Institute of Applied Engineering at the University of South Florida.
In particular, the 10 Starlink satellites aboard this mission will be the first in the constellation to enter polar orbit as the company continues to expand public access to its satellite Internet network. These 10 satellites were added after Momentus withdrew its first Vigoride mission from the Transporter-1 launch earlier this month. Momentus cited the extra time required for regulatory approval as the cause of the change.
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