US-based private spaceflight company SpaceX launched Falcon 9 rocket carrying 64 small satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the state of California on Monday.
The mission, dubbed SSO-A, or “SmallSat Express,” set a US launch record for most satellites put into space at a single time. It is also SpaceX’s first flight to reuse the Falcon 9 first-stage booster a third time.
The rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 4 at the air force base at 10:34 a.m. PST (1834 GMT), Xinhua news agency reported.
At about two minutes and 21 seconds after liftoff, SpaceX confirmed first stage main engine cutoff.
Following stage separation, the first stage of the rocket successfully landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship stationed in the Pacific Ocean. It completed Falcon 9’s third launch and landing this year.
Later on, SpaceX confirmed second stage engine cutoff and successful deployment of four microsats and the upper and lower free flyer with additional payloads for SSO-A.
The Falcon 9 carried to orbit 64 spacecraft, in particular 15 Micro satellites and 49 cubesats, from 34 different organisations from 17 countries.
The “ride share” mission, SpaceX’s 19th mission of 2018, was arranged by a company called Spaceflight Industries.
A series of six deployments will occur approximately 13-43 minutes after liftoff, after which Spaceflight will begin to command its own deployment sequences. Spaceflight’s deployments are expected to occur over a period of six hours, according to SpaceX.
“We’ve developed a deployment sequence that’s based off a high-fidelity analysis that we did specifically to make sure our customers don’t collide into each other upon deployment, so we’re taking our time,” said Jeff Roberts, Spaceflight’s SSO-A mission manager.
“We make sure that we phase that to maximize the distance in separation between all of our customers,” he said.
The mission was previously scheduled for three times, but was postponed to Monday for additional inspections prior to the launch.