SpaceX rideshare successfully launches 64 satellites on twice-reused Falcon 9 rocket

The mission made history by launching & landing Falcon 9's first stage in its third successful reuse.

SpaceX successfully launched 64 small satellites, including India’s ExseedSAT-1 in the company’s largest-ever “rideshare” mission on a twice-reused Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off at 10.34 am PST (00.02 am IST) from a California launchpad.

The reusable part of the Falcon 9 rocket — its first stage booster — returned to earth as planned, landing on SpaceX’s 'Of Course I Still Love You!' droneship, according to a live video of the flight.

However, the rocket’s payload fairing — an enclosure that covers and protects satellites during the intense heat and pressure in the first half of a launch — missed its landing net and ended up in the ocean.

“Falcon fairing halves missed the net, but touched down softly in the water,” Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, said on Twitter. He added that a boat was on the move to pick them up.

“Plan is to dry them out & launch again. Nothing wrong with a little swim,” Musk followed up in a subsequent tweet.

The SSO-A: SmallSat Express

The aptly-named “SSO-A: SmallSat Express” mission made history by launching and landing the Falcon 9’s first stage in the third successful reuse of the rocket. It was also the second-biggest satellite rideshare mission in history after the Indian Space Research Organisation’s 104-satellite-mission in a single launch in February, 2017.

SpaceX said that the mission was “one of the most complex and intricate endeavours” for Spaceflight, the Seattle-based ride-share startup that made arrangements for each of the satellites on the ‘SmallSat Express’.

SpaceX rideshare successfully launches 64 satellites on twice-reused Falcon 9 rocket

Space X's Reusable First Stages make a touchdown on Of Course I Still Love You! Image courtesy:SpaceX

The SSO-A mission also holds a special significance for India.

Indian-made ExseedSAT-1 onboard

One of the many satellites on Falcon 9 that hitched a ride to orbit was a made-in-India CubeSat called Exseed-1, built by one-year-old private space venture Exseed. Headquartered in Mumbai, Exseed Space is in the business of developing small satellite platforms to assemble, integrate, test and operate small satellites.

ExseedSAT during its developmental phase awaiting a 'bake test' in a thermovac chamber. Image courtesy: Twitter/Sanjay Nekkanti

ExseedSAT during its developmental phase awaiting a 'bake test' in a thermovac chamber. Image courtesy: Twitter/Sanjay Nekkanti

ExseedSAT1, a communications satellite roughly twice the size of a Rubik’s cube, was designed to bring a big boost to India’s private radio capabilities. This comes after ISRO’s own amateur radio microsatellite, HAMSAT, was retired from operations in 2014.

Exseed Space is also currently working towards setting up the country’s first contract satellite manufacturing facility. Once complete, the facility will cater to the growing demand for CubeSats, nanosatellites and microsattellites.

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