A new world record has been set for the number of satellites sent to space on a single rocket.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX, an aerospace company, has managed to break the world record of the most number of satellites carried by a single rocket as Falcon 9 carried as many as 143 payloads into space on Monday.
The launch was part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program mission and the firm’s social media handles shared pictures from the launch. Falcon 9 which has taken part in numerous SpaceX missions in the past flew from Florida to take the 143 satellites of different shapes and sizes to their orbits.
Previously, the record was 104 satellites being deployed on a single mission, achieved by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) way back in 2017. The satellites were launched via the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) flight PSLV-C37 on 15 February 2017.
The reusable rocket launched 143 satellites to space, where 133 were government and commercial spacecraft and 10 were Starlink satellites which are part of the SmallSat Rideshare program of SpaceX.
These 10 satellites on the Falcon are the latest additions to its Starlink telecommunications mega-constellation, which is going to deliver broadband internet connections around the globe.
The aerospace company had also offered a very low price of $15,000 per kilogram for each satellite to be delivered to the polar sun-synchronous orbit.
According to a BBC report, San Francisco’s Planet company had the most satellites of all on the flight – 48. These were another batch of its SuperDove models that image the Earth’s surface daily at a resolution of 3-5m. The new spacecraft take the firm’s operational fleet now in orbit to more than 200.
The SuperDoves are the size of a shoebox. Many of the other payloads on the Falcon rocket were little bigger than a coffee mug, however; and some were smaller even than a paperback book.
On the Falcon rocket, some of the larger items were suitcase-sized. Several radar satellites were among these. Radar has been one of the major beneficiaries of the revolution in componentry.
Traditionally, radar satellites were massive, multi-tonne objects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to launch, which effectively meant that they could only be run by the military or major space agencies.
But the adoption of new materials and compact “off the shelf” parts have dramatically shrunk the size (to under 100kg) and price (a couple of million dollars) of these spacecraft.
Iceye from Finland, Capella and Umbra from the US, and iQPS of Japan also had their satellites as payloads. These start-ups are establishing constellations in the sky that will return rapid, repeat imagery of the Earth.
Delayed launch & Previously launched satellites by SpaceX
Elon Musk’s SpaceX had delayed the launch of the satellites by one day due to the unfavorable weather conditions.
On January 22, 2021, Elon Musk, Chief Executive of Tesla Inc., had tweeted that launching many small satellites for a wide range of customers on January 23. He added that the company is excited about offering low-cost access to the orbit for small companies.
The aerospace company had previously launched more than 800 satellites to orbit of the several thousand to offer broadband internet globally.
It is estimated that a $10 billion investment can generate $30 billion annually to help fund Starship, an interplanetary rocket program of the company.