- SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, will try to launch its next space mission on Monday.
- The mission, called SSO-A, aims to send up 64 small satellites into orbit on a single Falcon 9 rocket.
- SpaceX’s live webcast of the launch will begin shortly after 1:15 p.m. EST on Wednesday.
Update (3 p.m. EST): SpaceX successfully launched its mission to orbit, re-landed a rocket booster for the third time, and recovered the vehicle’s fairings. The Spaceflight Industries payload also successfully deployed all 64 satellites after launch.
SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, is about to make history by launching more satellites at once from the US than any company before it.
Around 1:32 p.m. EST on Monday, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Called SSO-A or “SmallSat Express,” the mission aims to send up one big spacecraft that will deploy 64 small satellites around Earth in a pole-to-pole orbit.
The satellites range from fist-size to luggage-size, are owned by 34 different organizations, and hail from 18 different countries. They will monitor Earth’s oceans, study our planet’s changing climate, and track illegal fishing operations, among other activities.
The SmallSat Express “ride share” mission was arranged with SpaceX by a company called Spaceflight Industries.
“To say this is a historic milestone in the history of Spaceflight and for the commercial small sat industry would be an understatement,” Curt Blake, Spaceflight’s president, said in a blog post. “There is no other mission that has supported so many disparate hopes and dreams of all sorts of organizations; from from startups to established businesses, from space agencies to universities, all of whom need to prove their technologies and business models, to take their organizations to new heights.”
- Spaceflight Industries
The SSO-A mission has been delayed multiple times since its original November launch date due to bad weather and last-minute inspections. However, the big moment appears to finally be here.
“SmallSat Express went vertical last night on SpaceX’s California launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base,” SpaceX tweeted on Monday. “Vehicle and weather are go ahead of today’s launch window.”
The rocket that SmallSat Express will use isn’t any ordinary vehicle: It’s the latest version of SpaceX’s workhorse launcher, called Falcon 9 Block 5. The rocket’s lower section, or booster, has already been launched and recovered twice in the past.
Boosters typically crash into the ocean and are never seen again, yet they can cost tens of millions of dollars a piece. But Monday’s launch would mark the third time SpaceX has used the same booster – a record for the company. That makes the mission a prime demonstration of reusable, cost-saving rocket technology.
Watch SpaceX launch 64 satellites at once
SpaceX broadcasts every one of its launches live on YouTube.
Their feed (below) should start around 1:15 p.m. EST. Lift-off of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SSO-A mission to orbit is expected around 1:32 p.m. EST.