SpaceX confirmed that it launched a batch of up to 143 spacecraft to space recently. The spacecraft launched from Florida and are under the SmallSat Rideshare Program, a new cost-cutting initiative from the company that hopes to significantly reduce the cost of space exploration in the coming years. The launch also broke the record for the most satellites lofted into space at any given launch.
The program is simply as the name suggests. It’s a rideshare to space. Typically, when companies launch satellites into space, they do it individually. So, in essence, if you were to say launch 10 satellites, you will need 10 launches. The Rideshare Program changes all this. Think of it as a carpool for the space world. It simply combined dozens of satellites and launched them all in one go.
This does not only cut the cost of launching satellites into orbit but also makes it possible for companies to launch multiple satellites at the same time. Since it’s only SpaceX that has this capability for now, it could prove to be a very lucrative business for the Musk-led company. According to the company, this service is available to businesses starting from a few of as low as $1 million. All the satellites were lifted into the sky by SpaceX’s Falcon rocket.
The launch was expected to take place on Saturday but bad weather at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station pushed it to Sunday. This is the third time SpaceX is launching satellites into space under the Rideshare program.
But it’s not the only company that does this. In fact, although the 143 satellites launched last Sunday now hold the record for the most satellites launched into space in a single launch, the previous record of 104 satellites was held by an Indian company.
We are also learning about the contents of the SpaceX cargo. From recent reports, we know that onboard the Falcon 9 are 48 Earth imaging satellites, often referred to as SuperDoves. There are also 17 small communication satellites owned by Kepler, a communications company based in Toronto Canada. The Falcon 9 was also carrying 30 more satellites from both the US and Europe.
However, despite this successful feat, there have been a few challenges along the way. For example, it emerged that DAPRA, an R&D agency at the Pentagon, decided to pull out two major satellites from this recent launch after some of its satellites were damaged as they were being processed for launch. Nonetheless, it looks like it’s going to be quite an eventful year for the company.
In the last 16 days only, SpaceX has launched more satellites into space than the entire world did in a year since 2013. And as the Rideshare program creates more opportunities for cost-effective satellite launches in the future, the company is poised to remain a huge player in space exploration for years to come.
SpaceX is working with NASA as well to launch a man into the moon and reduce the cost of space travel substantially in the near term.