A flight-proven Falcon 9 launched 143 small satellites on January 24 as part of the company’s first dedicated rideshare mission.
SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 15:00 UTC. Following a successful launch and stage separation, the booster touched down safely on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Atlantic. It was the fifth flight for the booster, making it only the third to do so.
The rocket’s upper stage completed two burns approximately 45 minutes apart before the first satellites were deployed. The multi-stage deployment process took 32 minutes.
The 143-satellite launch is the largest rideshare mission to date, overtaking the 104 satellites deployed by an Indian PSLV vehicle in February 2017. The launch included payloads from a number of different satellite operators as well as several rideshare aggregators, including Spaceflight, D-Orbit, and Exolaunch. The launch also carried four technology demonstration cubesats for NASA.
Planet was the single largest contributor to the record-setting launch with 48 of the company’s SuperDove cubesats aboard the Falcon 9 rideshare mission. The new additions will join Planet’s constellation of over 100 satellites offering commercial Earth-imaging services.
In addition to the commercial and governmental payloads, the Transporter-1 launch also carried 10 Starlink satellites. This latest batch of Starlink satellites is the first to operate in polar orbits and the first to integrate laser communication, a feature that SpaceX COO Gwen Shotwell teased in early 2019.
SpaceX received last-minute approval from the Federal Communications Commission on January 8 to deploy the 10 Starlink satellites aboard Transporter-1. According to FCC filings, the satellites will be used to test the satellite’s ability to provide broadband access at high latitudes.
Transporter-1 is the first mission of the dedicated rideshare program SpaceX launched in August 2019. The program promises regular low-cost launch opportunities for smallsat operators aboard one of the most reliable launch vehicles in the industry. Customers can book a ride aboard a Falcon 9 rideshare mission from the SpaceX website for as little as $1 million.