SpaceX launches a record-breaking 143 satellites in one rocket
Bringing to you yet another mind-blowing SpaceX news, as the company breaks all records launching 143 satellites carried by the Falcon-9 from Florida. SpaceX leaves a mark in the commercial space industry yet again performing such an amazing feat.
Sending a total of 143 satellites is a demonstration of sheer hard work and engineering excellence. Previously, most satellites sent into space from a single flight were 103 satellites by an Indian agency.
Nevertheless, SpaceX with this monumental launch of a record-breaking 143 satellites aboard the massive Falcon-9 rocket leaves all competition behind. Paving the way for more frequent space missions where the public and private sector can participate and benefit.
More than just a world record this SpaceX launch will act as a major catalyst in commercializing the space industry and attracting the interest of public and government institutions to recognize the economic potential in the commercial space industry.
The era of miniaturized and low-cost space flights has begun. Having launched from Cape Canaveral Florida on January 24 the Falcon-9 hosted dozens of shoe-box sized CubeSats, microsatellites, and 10 satellites of the StarLink program from SpaceX.
The rocket carried payloads, with satellites having a few pounds of weight to up to 400 pounds. SpaceX allows private and public consumers to be able to send a payload of up to 200kg in $1m, but after the threshold of 200kg, the costs for carrying a payload increases with terms and conditions applied.
Under the transporter-1 scheme by SpaceX, the first successful launch of the rideshare program is a massive development and has great potential for future missions.
The SmallSat Rideshare program promises to provide low cost and sustainable delivery of small satellites or CubeSats for commercial and government agencies. Much like any online taxi surface in our cities like Uber where you can hitch a ride on someone else’s vehicle for a much lower cost and improved experience than public transports.
SpaceX aims to provide low-cost feasible options for minor commercial companies to be able to send their payloads to orbit without worrying over the complexities of space launch and the massive resources required for that.
Previously, if you wished to send a smaller satellite through some other space agency the cost obtained for launch would exceed that of making the satellite.
Below we discuss in detail some of the important aspects of this SpaceX falcon rocket launch:
10 Starlink satellites aboard
The Falcon-9 rocket along with dozens of small satellites belonging to different manufacturers transported 10 Starlink satellites into polar orbit too.
SpaceX Starlink launch is yet another ambitious space program from Elon musk’s aerospace company, it is a satellite internet constellation, the plan consists of launching hundreds of small communication satellites into low earth orbit.
The much-hyped program aims to provide cheap and accessible internet all across the globe.
The low latency internet promised by SpaceX is yet to start its service for the general consumers but meanwhile, the mission is well underway with dozens of Starlink satellites already in low earth orbit (LEO).
The reusable Falcon-9 rocket
With the current launch, SpaceX demonstrated excellent reusable rocket technology through the Falcon-9 rocket. As soon as 10 minutes after the liftoff the first stage reusable booster of the Falcon-9 rocket landed smoothly.
This SpaceX rocket landing is now among many others where the world was left to say a monumental engineering miracle. SpaceX landing rockets to be used again to be launched into space is now becoming more and more of a recurring habit from the company.
The reusable rocket technology will truly revolutionize the way business is done in the aerospace industry. Previously, a space rocket costing millions of dollars of tax money would be demolished right after a single launch and there was no concept of bringing back rockets to be reused for further space missions.
Thanks to the genius of Elon Musk SpaceX took on the mission of making reusable rocket technology possible and to make it work. SpaceX landing rockets for reuse has been appreciated and applauded by industry professionals all around the world.
With reusable SpaceX can save millions of dollars making the rockets as good as new after some maintenance and repairing. Along with that instead of dumping the rockets in orbit now, the rockets can be recovered safely, this reduces the amount of space junk that was being created by companies disposing waste material of space launch into orbit.
Space debris is a serious emerging issue and can have grave consequences for the future of the aerospace industry and space exploration.
48 SuperDove satellites launched
Of all the satellites carried by the Falcon 9 rocket, most of them belonged to a San Francisco based space company sending a striking number of 48 of its SuperDove satellites into orbit.
The SuperDove’s are CubeSats the size of a shoebox and weigh no more than 6 pounds, they are designed to fly in low earth orbit for planet imaging.
With a resolution of up to 3-5mm, the firm has now about 200 operational SuperDove satellites in low earth orbit.
Collaborations such as this can be very useful for small firms which are not well funded to have their launch sites or technology. But such easy access to commercial companies also poses a great threat to the overall health of the aerospace industry which we will be discussing later in the article.
The most space taken on the Falcon-9 rocket for this launch would be to buy multiple radar satellites aboard the rocket. The rocket hosted some radio satellites which were much bigger and heavier than most of the CubeSats and Starlink satellites but were relatively still compact and much less bulky than conventional radio satellites.
These radar satellites were the size of an average suitcase, unlike their predecessors which were big bulky and would cost millions of dollars being launched by individual rockets into space.
Now with the adoption of new materials and much lighter and compact design specifics these radar satellites weigh under 100kg and cost much less than previous satellites of this domain. Communication satellites are truly integral for our technological development here on earth and with them becoming so accessible and easy to launch the technology industry will benefit loads from it.
The trajectory that the Falcon-9 rocket took was a bit unique and has to be discussed. Soon after liftoff, the rocket moved towards the east coast and then moved along the Atlantic ocean to be able to deliver its payload into what’s known as the polar orbit.
A polar orbit is a specific orbital trajectory in which the satellite or the spaceship orbiting goes over the earth poles. Polar launches are not the most common trajectory for rockets launching from Florida.
Especially since an incident in the 1960s where the debris of a spacecraft being launched in a polar orbit crashed and killed a cow in Cuba the polar flights from Florida were stopped and not recommended.
But only recently after SpaceX was allowed for polar flights from Florida due to their advanced and secure technology for failure.
The automated termination program used in SpaceX’s rockets is much better than the previous procedure for coping with failure, where a human would manually initiate termination for the rocket. This manual practice was not as efficient as the automated response used now in the case of any potential failure.
The rideshare program has a slight drawback though, for example in the case of the currently discussed flight the rocket delivered all the satellites in the polar orbit, this restricts individual satellites and payloads to be launched in their preferred orbits and trajectory.
Almost like public transport where you cannot always be transported at your doorstep, just like that in the case of space programs such as rideshare where one rocket is launching many different payloads for distinct purposes you cannot assure that each payload is delivered in different orbital zones.
Introduction to a much cheaper rideshare program
Any SpaceX news always appreciates and recognizes the groundbreaking engineering capabilities of Elon Musk’s startup company. The company has often stated its plans to make space missions more accessible and cheap enough that small companies can take part in them.
This launch under the rideshare program is of integral value. Although there have been companies before SpaceX which did provide rideshare programs for launching payloads. But they still are not close to what SpaceX has managed to do.
Earlier many companies have tried their luck at introducing a sustainable and affordable rideshare program but to no good. Whereas SpaceX in its second rideshare flight after the Transporter mission in 2019. The Transporter mission being the first of its kind launched 64 commercial satellites.
SpaceX has planned to schedule a Transporter mission every 4 months and considering the rapid pace at which they are developing no part of this plan seems unreal.
Apart from engineering professionalism, SpaceX has demonstrated an unchallenged business model. Managing to cut costs in such an efficient manner makes them stand alone almost undisputed. Being able to manufacture most of their required parts and components for space flights, gives them an edge over other space companies. Most companies have to depend on separate firms to manufacture components which raise the overall cost of space missions.
Other than that the preference over reusing rockets has done miracles for SpaceX and their reputation in the industry.
All this makes SpaceX’s rideshare program a success and almost guarantees an optimistic future for the company.
Is there a drawback to the SpaceX rideshare program?
Like in all industries, in the aerospace industry there are always some people who remain sceptical of the current developments. With the second Transporter mission launched by SpaceX, many people have raised their objections concerning the possible threat of large quantities of space debris in the future.
Undoubtedly, space debris is a serious issue that could be problematic for future space missions. Of all the rockets launched into space 80% of their mass is required only to support the ascent and for fuel storage. As soon as the payload is delivered the rocket parts disintegrate and become floating junk in the orbits of the earth.
Not only rockets but even satellites that have now expired and are not in use will also remain in orbit and thus acting as useless junk. These floating junk pieces in the orbit can cause serious threats to newer satellites which could be destroyed in the case of a collision.
Other than that too much space debris inhibits communication satellites to be fully functional by causing interference. Currently, we have no means of clearing out space debris or even stop causing it anymore.
With SpaceX showing off by sending 143 satellites into space at once and its plans to launch hundreds of Starlink satellites, many people fear that this will further catalyse the space junk problem. As most of the CubeSats and SmallSats are short-lived and soon become floating pieces of junk in orbit.
SpaceX has yet again achieved a great monumental feat in the aerospace industry. The future of the space industry is a sanguine one, with the current developments by companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. The current SpaceX news offers good assurance to smaller companies who wish to send probes or payloads into orbit easily at a much lower cost.
We hope this article provided you with a good sense of the current state of the space industry concerning this Falcon 9 rocket launch.
Author: Muhammad Hubban