The recent successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenburg air base in California, has gained SpaceX four new records.
In December 2018, the Falcon 9 rocket was sent into space to drop off a fleet of new satellites. If we are used to SpaceX having successful rocket launches, this launch was particularly successful. It was a day of lots of records for the company, which is increasingly becoming a spearhead of the space industry.
1, 2, 3… 4 records
The first notable record was that it was the 19th rocket launch for SpaceX this year. (Their previous record was 18 launches which was established in 2017. Secondly, no other American rocket has deployed as many satellites into orbit at the same time – 64 of them in just on launch. Despite this large number, it is in fact India which holds the world record after sending 104 satellites into space in one go in 2017.
The third record is that the rock launcher used, is the first to be used for 3 separate launches. The previous two launches took place on the 11 May and the 7 of August in 2018. If companies can’t reuse rocket launchers there is huge environmental and financial waste.
Lastly, this same launcher was used on three separate platforms: the 39A pad at the Kennedy Space Center, The Launching complex at the Cape Canaveral 40 air base and the 4E launching complex at the Vandenburg air base in California. This is also completely unheard of.
64 mini-satellites piled up
Out of the 64 satellites that were sent up to space in the latest launch, 15 were “microsats” and 49 were “cubesats”. More than 34 different organisations from both private and public sectors across 7 different countries are involved. Among them is an Australian device which aims to connect more countries to the internet. There are also American SkySats used for following planes and ships at a distance and even a small experimental astrobiology satellite created by a group of high school students from Florida.
In terms of upcoming dates, NASA announced last month that the first SpaceX rocket flight to the ISS with two astronauts on board should take place in June 2019. This would be another first time record. Ultimately, NASA will rely on SpaceX – but also Boeing – to take astronauts on the ISS for regular missions. Since 2011, NASA has been sending astronauts into space with a Russian launcher called Soyuz.