SpaceX has made history launching a Falcon 9 first stage for the third time. The launch deployed 64 small satellites for rideshare provider, Spaceflight Industries.
The historic Falcon 9 mission launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 18:34 UTC (13:34 local time) yesterday. Approximately 14 minutes after liftoff, the first of the 64 small satellites were deployed. The last drifted away from the Falcon 9’s upper stage half an hour later.
The launch was the largest rideshare ever launched from US soil. It is, however, not the largest ever. A Soyuz flight (73 satellites) and an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle flight (104 satellites) both surpass yesterday’s attempt.
The 64-satellite SSO-A: SmallSat Express rideshare included SmallSats for customers from 17 countries including India, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Spain, the United Kindom and Germany. The range of customers was as diverse as the countries they came from. They included universities, a high school, artists, and communications and imaging providers.
“SSO-A is a major milestone for Spaceflight and the industry,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight. “We’ve always been committed to making space more accessible through rideshare. This mission enabled 34 organizations from 17 different countries to place spacecraft on orbit. It’s also special because it was completely dedicated to smallsats.”
In addition to making history becoming the first Falcon 9 first stage to be launched three times, it also became the first to be launched from all three of the provider’s launch sites. It launched the Bangabandhu-1 satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in May, the Merah Putih satellite from Cape Canaveral in August and finally, yesterday’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission from Vandenberg.
SpaceX is expected to launch their 20th mission for 2018 later this week. The International Space Station resupply mission will launch from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 on December 5. Liftoff is expected at 18:16 UTC (13:16 EST).