SpaceX placed 64 mini-satellites in Earth orbit, an American record and the first time the Californian company fully dedicates a launch to the growing market of small satellites.
Elon Musk’s company broke another record by re-using the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket for the third time. This first stage, also known as a booster, returned safely to an automated platform off the coast of California.
On board the rocket were 15 microsatellites and 49 Cubesats, belonging to 34 different private, public and academic clients from 17 countries, including France, South Korea and Kazakhstan.
The rocket was entirely chartered by Spaceflight, a company specializing in “rideshare”, that is to say, putting several satellites on board the same rocket.
Microsatellites weigh a few tens of kilograms. Cubesats are even smaller satellites, built from standard modules.
The rocket is part of the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A little more than seven minutes later, the first floor, after having separated from the second, came back to rest.
The cap, which encloses and protects the satellites at the top of the rocket during the exit of the atmosphere, was also to be recovered by a boat equipped with large nets, baptized “Mr. Steven”. But each half of the headdress missed the net, tweeted Elon Musk. The two halves will be fished out, he wrote.
The satellites were to be in orbit for a period of five to six hours, depending on each gear, at different altitudes according to customer needs. Spaceflight has designed a special “distributor” for the mission, which will eject the satellites individually.
All customers do not have scientific missions.
The Nevada Museum of Art has sent a light sculpture of the artist Trevor Paglen which, once unfolded, is supposed to be visible from the Earth to the naked eye at night.
In total, SpaceX made 19 launches in 2018, breaking its record of 18 launches in 2017. And others are still expected before the end of the year, including a new refueling of the International Space Station on Tuesday.