Space

SpaceX puts record 143 satellites in orbit in one launch

SpaceX puts record 143 satelli...
Transporter-1 lifting off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Transporter-1 lifting off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
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Transporter-1 lifting off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
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Transporter-1 lifting off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Falcon 9 lfit off and landing infographic
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Falcon 9 lfit off and landing infographic

SpaceX's latest orbital mission has set a new record for the most spacecraft launched by a single rocket at one time. On January 24, 2021 at 10:00 am EST, the Transporter-1 mission lifted off atop a Falcon 9 booster from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida with 143 satellites aboard.

Today's launch was not only a record setter, it also allowed SpaceX to let out a collective sigh of relief. Transporter-1 was originally scheduled for launch on December 16, 2020, but was scrubbed five times – the latest on January 23 due to bad weather.

This time, the launch went off without any significant problems. One minute and 12 seconds into the flight the Falcon 9 passed through the moment of peak mechanical stress (Max Q) and the first stage main engines shut down at the 2:28 mark with second stage separation eight seconds later followed by the second stage engine firing.

Falcon 9 lfit off and landing infographic
Falcon 9 lfit off and landing infographic

Meanwhile, the fairing that protected the payload separated and fell away at two minutes and 51 seconds. These fell back to Earth for a splashdown and ship recovery, and the first stage made a powered landing on SpaceX's "Of Course I Still Love You" autonomous barge stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The record 143 satellites deployed were the first to fly under SpaceX's SmallSat Rideshare Program. Multiple satellite launches are not new, nor is having these launches include a number of small spacecraft. However, the usual practice is for the smaller satellites to fly along with a large primary payload. This brings down the costs, but it limits how many satellites can be carried, and launching the small satellites can be delayed if there is a hold up with the primary payload.

For the SmallSat Rideshare Program, SpaceX is offering to launch missions made up entirely of small satellites. For Transporter-1, the Falcon 9 carried 133 US government and private satellites, including CubeSats, microsats, and orbital transfer vehicles to carry clusters of satellites to specific orbits.

The launch also included an additional 10 SpaceX Starlink satellites, which are the first of the growing constellation to be placed in polar orbit. The Starlink system is designed to provide a low latency, broadband, global, internet system.

The video below recaps the launch and satellite deployment.

Transporter-1 Mission

Source: SpaceX

6 comments
Nobody
They are rapidly putting an end to manned space flight with all this junk in orbit. Thousands of projectiles traveling ten times as fast as a high powered bullet. I can just imagine the first manned mission to Mars being shot down by a cubesat before it even leaves earth orbit. We are already reading about problems with this artificial asteroid space junk belt. Just think what thousands more projectiles will be like. There's nothing like short sighted smart people doing stupid things for profit.
Username
Nobody - To be fair, short sighted stupid people doing stupid things for profit aren't any better!
Nobody
@Username, I'm sure you would know. There is a cure for ignorance but no cure for stupidity. But smart people should forsee the consequences when they are so obvious. Stupid people don't know any better nor do they launch thousands of tons of space junk.
MattII
@Nobody, Cubesats are being tracked, and almost all are on degrading orbits. In addition, various methods are being explored to deal with space junk (most of which is not cubesats).
Nobody
MattII, cubesats were just examples of the continuing congestion in space and the hazard it poses. As for your "various methods are being explored to deal with space junk". Dream on. A friend of mine flew on the space shuttle years ago and at that time they found a fleck of paint (space junk) that had penetrated the windshield of the shuttle. The energy of even the tiniest projectiles is incredible let alone untrackable.
MattII
@Nobody, those cubesats (and many other satellites) are on degrading orbits, so don't pose a long-term threat. As for the various debris collection systems, several show promise, but are limited by launch costs. So in the pipeline, but nothing to show right now.