SpaceX launches record spacecraft in cosmic rideshare program

Published January 25, 2021
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk gestures after arriving on the red carpet for the Axel Springer award, in Berlin, Germany, December 1, 2020. — Reuters
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk gestures after arriving on the red carpet for the Axel Springer award, in Berlin, Germany, December 1, 2020. — Reuters

A veteran rocket from billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company launched 143 spacecraft into space on Sunday, a new record for the most spaceships deployed on a single mission, according to the company.

The Falcon nine rocket lifted off at 10 am EST from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It flew south along the eastern coast of Florida on its way to space, the company said.

The reusable rocket ferried 133 commercial and government spacecraft and 10 Starlink satellites to space — part of the company’s SmallSat Rideshare Program, which provides access to space for small satellite operators seeking a reliable, affordable ride to orbit, according to the company.

SpaceX delayed the launch one day because of unfavorable weather. On January 22 Musk, also chief executive of Tesla Inc, wrote on Twitter: “Launching many small satellites for a wide range of customers tomorrow. Excited about offering low-cost access to orbit for small companies!”

SpaceX has previously launched to orbit more than 800 satellites of the several thousand needed to offer broadband internet globally, a $10 billion investment it estimates could generate $30bn annually to help fund Musk’s interplanetary rocket program, called Starship.

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