SpaceX Rocket Makes Record-Breaking Launch With 64 Satellites

By Tiffany Meier

A private American aerospace manufacturer and space transport company has launched what it claims to be the largest single ride-share mission from a launch vehicle in the United States to date.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 blasted off carrying a record 64 small satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at 18:34 GMT (10:34 a.m. local California time), Monday, Dec. 3, 2018.

This mission also serves as the first time SpaceX launched the same booster, Falcon 9, a third time.

Earlier this year, Falcon 9 supported the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission in May and the Merah Putih mission in August. The successful launch represents an important milestone for SpaceX, which aims to fly its vehicles frequently and repeatedly.

Such rapid reuse could minimize the cost of spaceflight, opening up space to exploration, founder and CEO Elon Musk has said, according to Space.com.

Block 5, the latest version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, is designed to complete as many as 100 flights before being retired, and up to 10 times without requiring significant refurbishment between flights, according to CNN Business.

Monday’s launch, called “SSO-A: SmallSet Express,” marked its 19th launch of the year, surpassing SpaceX’s previous record of 18 launches in the previous year.

SpaceFlight, SpaceX’s customer for the SSO-A mission, aims to be a sort of Uber service for space.

Working for years as a liaison between small satellite companies and launch providers, the company looks to put small payloads onto rockets with extra room on board.

SSO-A is the first mission Spaceflight has entirely filled the rocket with its small satellite customers. The satellites come from a total of 34 companies and organizations across 17 countries, Spaceflight representatives said.

The booster touched down about 8 minutes after liftoff on the SpaceX drone ship “Just Read the Instructions,” which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

Full deployment into low Earth orbit is expected to take six hours, according to The Associated Press.