SpaceX successfully launched 88 satellites into polar orbit under the Transporter-2 mission. This is SpaceX’s second dedicated mission under the SmallSat Rideshare program, which intends to launch satellites from different companies and startups, like a carpool.
On June 30, around 3:31 pm EST, Falcon 9 took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first stage booster, which was reused for the eighth time since it entered service last year, was separated at 3:34 pm EST and landed back to Cape at 3:39 pm EST.
This marks SpaceX's 20th launch this year but importantly the first one when the first stage booster landed onshore at Landing Zone-1, the company’s designated landing pad. All previous missions this year landed in the sea over the drone ships.
The launch also raises the tally to 127 missions for SpaceX. With months left in the calendar year, it can be predicted that the company is going to break its own record of 26 launches that took place last year.
Although the launch was originally scheduled on Tuesday, it was stopped T-11 seconds before liftoff due to the entry of a helicopter in the “keep out zone”.
Elon Musk was quite disappointed about Tuesday's dangerous situation due to range violation. He tweeted and pointed out how the existing regulatory system is faulty and spacefaring civilization requires major regulatory reforms.
Transporter-2 mission consisted of 88 satellites, among which 85 were launched for external government and commercial customers. The other 3 were the company’s own Starlink internet satellites. All of them flew as part of this one mission which is the company’s second most dedicated ride-sharing mission to help other startups and companies to share satellites.
Satellites include the first launch for Umbra – a space intelligence startup that raised $32 million in January, and YAM-2 and YAM-3 which are Loft Orbital’s satellites. Five independent sensors are present in both YAM-2 and YAM-3 for five individually separate customers. The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency (SDA) had four satellites on Transporter-2 for $21 million.
Transporter-2 is the successor to Transporter-1, which was the first ridesharing mission for SpaceX. Transporter-1 carried 143 satellites in January but less orbital mass than Transporter-2.
The ridesharing business model was announced by SpaceX back in 2019 where the company initiated a sharing option in order to offer customers some flexibility and the ability to pre-book their slots for satellite launch. Bringing carpooling like a model for satellite launch, the goal is to divide the cost among customers making it more affordable for them to pay the expenses linked with flying to orbit.
SpaceX offers Falcon 9 rides to the customers in breaks throughout the year with the cost of starting from $1 million per launch. The flights can be booked through SpaceX’s website directly. With the success of Falcon 9’s Transporter-2 mission, SpaceX will continue to make efforts to enhance the customer experience.
The reusability model has opened many new doors for SpaceX. The ridesharing program is one of them which became possible due to a partially reusable Falcon-9 rocket. With over 100 launches, it is one of the most reliable launch vehicles making it the first choice over its competitors like Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne.
“The Holy Grail for rocketry is rapidly reusable reliable rockets.” — Elon Musk
The two-stage vehicle, Falcon 9 is 229 ft tall and has been named after the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. The bottom two-thirds of the vehicle is the first-stage booster, also the most expensive component, and that's what SpaceX reuses. The objective of the first stage is to accelerate the vehicle through the earth’s atmosphere to space and then separate it from the rest of the rocket.
The inter-stage of Falcon 9 is made up of the carbon-fiber aluminum core structure which connects the upper and lower stage of the vehicle. The pusher system in the vehicle between the two stages allowed the first and second stage to separate during the flight.
Falcon 9 is partially reusable and SpaceX uses it for safe transport of people and payloads to space. It is said to be the world’s first orbital-class rocket that is reusable. The purpose of making the vehicle reusable is to re-fly the expensive parts of the rocket again and again which will subsequently cut down the space access cost.
SpaceX is also working on a fully reusable heavy space vehicle called “Starship” which will be powered by a booster called “Super Heavy”. The plan is to use Starship as a giant cargo and passengers carrying spacecraft part of Elon Musk’s Mars expedition. Elon Musk estimates 1000 Starships and a timeframe of 20 years for a sustainable city on Mars.
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