SEVERE WX : Wind Advisory View Alerts

Watch: SpaceX launches 64 satellites

SpaceX delivered 64 satellites into orbit in one fell swoop for a record-setting mission. This marks the 19th launch for SpaceX in 2018.

Posted: Dec 6, 2018 9:27 AM
Updated: Dec 6, 2018 9:44 AM

SpaceX delivered 64 satellites into orbit in one fell swoop for a record-setting mission.

Elon Musk's company launched a rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Monday after a series of delays triggered by bad weather and last-minute inspections for the rocket. It marked one of the largest satellite ride-sharing missions ever launched and the most crowded single mission in US history, according to Spaceflight, SpaceX's customer for the launch.

The mission illustrated the growing demand to launch small satellites, modern devices that some companies hope will empower an array of new businesses — from internet service to supply chain monitoring.

For SpaceX, Monday's mission, called SSO-A, marked its 19th launch of 2018, surpassing its previous annual record of 18 launches last year.

It was also the first time Musk's company attempted to fly one of its rocket boosters for a third time. The booster, covered in black soot from its two prior flights, landed again on a remote controlled platform in the Pacific Ocean after launch, queuing up the rocket to fly for a fourth time.

SpaceX's goal is to drastically reduce the cost of a launch by reusing the hardware, a feat its competitors long thought was impossible or uneconomical.

The latest version of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, called Block 5, is designed to fly as many as 100 times before retirement, and up to 10 times without significant refurbishment between flights.

The first-stage booster used for the SSO-A mission flew twice in the past six months — first on May 11 for the Bangabandhu mission and again August 7 for Merah Putih.

SpaceX also tried again Monday to recover the rocket's fairing, the bulging cone at the top of the rocket that shields satellites during launch. Musk has said the fairing costs about $6 million.

The company has tried on several occasions to guide the fairing, using parachutes, to a soft landing into a giant net hoisted up by a crew boat called Mr. Steven. But it has yet to hit the mark.

Musk said in a tweet Monday that the fairing halves "missed the net, but touched down softly in the water."

Experts have told CNN Business that salt water can damage electronics and components inside the fairing, likely making the part unusable if it hits the ocean. But Musk said SpaceX will attempt to refurbish the nose cone.

"Plan is to dry them out & launch again," he said. "Nothing wrong with a little swim."

Satellite ride sharing

SpaceX's customer for the SSO-A mission, Spaceflight, aims to be a sort of Uber service for space. The company has for years worked as a liaison between small satellite companies and launch providers, looking to put small payloads onto rockets with extra room on board.

"We started off just selling the excess capacity on whatever launches were out there," Spaceflight president Curt Blake told CNN Business in a recent interview. "Then, we said, 'Wow demand is so big, we should just buy a whole rocket ourselves.' That's how this mission came to be."

SSO-A was the first mission Spaceflight has filled a rocket entirely with its small satellite customers. They came from 34 companies and organizations across 17 countries.

They included Australia-based Fleet Space Technologies, which aims to connect remote devices to the internet via satellite. Two companies — US-based Capella Space Corporation and Finland's ICEYE — seek to use advanced radars to track airplanes or ships, even in cloudy weather. A group of middle school students from Florida sent an experimental astrobiology satellite. And an art project, funded by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, that pays homage to the first African American astronaut, Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., also took flight.

Deploying all 64 satellites safely is tricky business. The devices, which span a variety of shapes and sizes, rode to space affixed to sides of a 20-foot-tall structure, called a payload stack, that was shielded by the Falcon 9's fairing during launch. Once in orbit, the fairing fell away, and the satellites popped off from the payload stack in a carefully orchestrated sequence.

Spaceflight confirmed about seven hours after launch that all 64 satellites were deployed successfully.

Crowded ridesharing missions like this one have been executed before. India's space agency last year shattered a world record by launching 104 small satellites with a single rocket. Another mission from Russia in 2014 deployed 37 satellites.

Smallsats and space debris

There is a massive backlog of small satellites waiting to get to orbit. And companies including SpaceX and OneWeb are racing to send constellations of thousands of high-speed internet satellites into low-Earth orbit.

While hitching a ride with larger payloads is considered the cheapest option for getting to space, many nascent rocket companies are promising lightweight rockets that can be mass produced and make cheap, frequent trips to orbit.

One such company, US-based Rocket Lab, became the first to reach orbit, and has notched two missions so far. Its backlog of customers is so long that CEO Peter Beck told CNN Business the company is "not constrained by customers right now — we're only constrained by how quickly we can build rockets."

The massive influx of new satellites into low-Earth orbit poses difficult questions for the space sector, particularly when it comes to orbital debris.

The issue took center stage last month for the US Federal Communications Commission, which authorizes telecom satellites for launch. The agency is considering updating a set of 2004 rules, "seeking to keep pace with technological and market changes, and to incorporate improvements in debris mitigation practices," the FCC said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 926931

Reported Deaths: 9740
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1809132056
Ramsey749811054
Dakota68505591
Anoka64961589
Washington41119367
Stearns34021287
St. Louis29939416
Scott26281188
Wright26260226
Olmsted22677131
Sherburne19206130
Carver1687671
Clay12219108
Blue Earth1162171
Rice11578139
Crow Wing11318124
Chisago1005281
Kandiyohi9913108
Otter Tail9908130
Benton9174128
Beltrami8249100
Goodhue822699
Douglas7967101
Itasca779999
Mower740049
McLeod723384
Winona715158
Isanti711085
Steele695034
Morrison678681
Becker631675
Polk608987
Freeborn569947
Carlton552577
Mille Lacs539479
Lyon532961
Nicollet528561
Nobles527954
Pine521143
Cass505255
Todd496443
Brown473661
Le Sueur464736
Meeker437960
Martin391344
Waseca381433
Wabasha380110
Dodge366412
Hubbard357649
Roseau320532
Fillmore310115
Wadena306040
Redwood283845
Houston275317
Renville271651
Faribault261835
Sibley256017
Pennington254830
Kanabec254437
Cottonwood232933
Aitkin225052
Chippewa222043
Pope209910
Watonwan201121
Yellow Medicine189925
Koochiching179225
Rock178429
Swift174124
Stevens170211
Jackson162016
Clearwater159421
Marshall154822
Murray152911
Pipestone150929
Lake134124
Lac qui Parle124425
Wilkin122016
Mahnomen108314
Norman10579
Grant102410
Big Stone9585
Lincoln8915
Kittson74623
Red Lake71810
Traverse6086
Unassigned563124
Lake of the Woods5285
Cook3141

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 532160

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Unassigned64520
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
Rochester
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 21°
Mason City
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 28°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 27°
Austin
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 26°
Charles City
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 23°
Tracking cold and snow for next week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Santa Cycle Rampage

Image

Shop with a Cop

Image

Full 10 PM Forecast 12/4/21

Image

Annalise Magid example 1

Image

Annalise Magid example 2

Image

StormTeam 3 Online Forecast 12/4/21

Image

StormTeam 3 Web Weather Forecast 12/4/2021

Image

Groundbreaking "Utica Queen" exhibition to open at Rochester Art Center

Image

Data shows drop in unsheltered homelessness in Olmsted County

Image

Aaron's Friday Night Weather (12/3/21)

Community Events