Musk’s SpaceX Launches More Than 60 Small Satellites Into Orbit

Smallsat Express Spaceflight Falcon 9 SpaceX

Spaceflight's"SmallSat Express Falcon 9 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Dec. 3. Credit SpaceX webcast

A SpaceX rocket carrying 64 small satellites lifted off from California on Monday, marking the first time the same Falcon 9 rocket has been used in three space missions.

The launch is the largest single rideshare mission from a US -based launch vehicle - carrying spacecraft for 34 organizations from 17 countries - but is not the first, nor the largest launch of smallsats on a single mission.

Monday's success sets a new SpaceX record for the number of launches in one year, after a total of 18 in 2017.

As part of the mission, Spaceflight, a SpaceX customer, will send 64 small satellites for a ride on the rocket.

Monday's launch marked the third for the Falcon's first-stage booster, which previously conducted two other launches from Florida. And an art project, funded by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, that pays homage to the first African American astronaut, Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., also took flight. SpaceX has tried to snatch fairings out of the air with Mr. Steven on multiple occasions to keep the gear clear of corrosive seawater, but the boat has missed the catch each time.

Elon Musk's rocket company has been granted approval by the FCC to send its very-low-Earth orbit constellation of more than 7,000 satellites into space to provide global internet connectivity. After coasting for almost four minutes, the 64 nano and micro satellites were deployed over the next 30 minutes. Spaceflight has been called the "Uber service" for space, wanting to connect small sat companies with "drivers" of larger payloads able to get them there.

Lifting off into the partly-cloudy sky, the vehicle continued to build speed as it arced out over the Pacific Ocean, reaching the moment of maximum dynamic pressure-the time when the forces exerted on the rocket by the thrust of the engines, combined with the pressures of the thinning, but still substantial atmosphere, are greatest-approximately one minute after liftoff.

The satellites will be placed into orbit over the next several hours. India's space agency a year ago shattered a world record by launching 104 small satellites with a single rocket.

"We are committed to delivering superior satellite connectivity, and today's launch is a valuable step in developing our direct-to-orbit communications capability", co-founder and CTO Dr David Haley said.

The reflective, inflatable sculpture is created to eject from its satellite and orbit the earth 'for several weeks before disintegrating upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, ' the museum said. For Spaceflight Industries, which arranged for the cargo to be delivered to a Sun-Synchronous Low Earth Orbit (SSO), it was the largest single rideshare to be launched from United States soil.

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