Much like Uber Pool or Ola Share, Elon Musk-led SpaceX now offers a similar concept – for spacecrafts. On Sunday, a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, launching a record-breaking 143 spacecrafts. The previous record had been held by ISRO’s PSLV-C37.
“Rideshare customers’ deployment confirmed,” the SpaceX handle tweeted on Sunday night. The company posted pictures and videos from the launch noting that this was the highest number of spacecrafts ever deployed on a single mission. The launch also completed SpaceX’s first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission.
Prior to Sunday’s events, the record for most satellites launched at one go had been held by the Indian Space Research Organisation. In 2017, the organisation had launched the PSLV-C37 from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The rocket had carried a whopping 104 satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits. While both ISRO and SpaceX deployed over a 100 satellites, the record preceding them had been a 37 satellites – launched in 2014 by Russia’s Dnepr rocket.
Why did SpaceX launch 143 spacecraft to orbit?
According to SpaceX, the rideshare programme offers cheap access to space for small satellite companies, starting at $1 million for a 200-kg satellite. Much like a “rideshare Uber”, a company’s small satellite can hitch a ride to space with this new mission.
The SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sent a mix of shoebox-sized CubeSats and much heavier micro-satellites to a 326-mile-high polar orbit. The 143 satellites include 48 Earth imaging satellites, 17 tiny communications satellites, and 30 small satellites for the US and Europe by Germany-based Exolaunch. The Falcon 9 also carried several satellites affiliated with SpaceX itself. 10 satellites for the Starlink telecommunications mega-constellation also took off on the rocket.
(With inputs from agencies)