SpaceX launches biggest U.S. 'rideshare' mission with 64 satellites


For SpaceX, it was the third time that the rocket's first stage booster had been launched and retrieved, bringing us ever closer to the day when Elon Musk's vision of completely reusable rockets becomes a reality.

The latest SpaceX Falcon 9 launch had been scheduled for liftoff at 10:32 a.m. Sunday while carrying not one, not two, but 64 satellites on what was billed as a "ridesharing" mission.

Spaceflight booked the Falcon 9 to launch 64 small so-called "smallsats" provided by 34 government and private-sector companies and organizations representing 17 nations, including the U.S. Defense Department, the Earth-observation company Planet, universities and even two art museums.

This mission also marks a first for SpaceX: It's the first time the company has sent the same first-stage booster into space three times.

The Falcon rocket launch at Vandenberg has encountered assorted delays related to technical troubles and unfavorable weather since November 19.

Reusability is a key priority for SpaceX, which aims to re-fly its space vehicles frequently and repeatedly.

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.

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"Plan is to dry them out and launch again", Musk tweeted. "Nothing wrong with a little swim", he added. Falcon 9's first stage for the SSO-A previously supported the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission in May 2018 and the Merah Putih mission in August 2018.

The latest version of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, called Block 5, is created to fly as many as 100 times before retirement, and up to 10 times without significant refurbishment between flights.

Hitching a ride on the Falcon rocket was a satellite from Australian Internet of Things (IoT) satellite technology startup Myriota, which will be put into a sun-synchronous orbit and add to the company's existing constellation.

The launch was chartered by a company called Spaceflight, which specializes in space 'rideshares, ' or putting multiple satellites on the same rocket. Spaceflight is expected to share updates about the remaining payloads. Today's simultaneous launch of 64 satellites points to the trend toward more compact, low-cost satellites, and the declining need for heavy rocket power.

On Nov. 15, SpaceX launched a Qatari communications satellite into orbit from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its backlog of customers is so long that CEO Peter Beck told CNN Business the company is "not constrained by customers right now - we're only constrained by how quickly we can build rockets".

South Korea has another satellite orbiting the Earth now.