Dozens of satellites have been launched into space on a new SpaceX mission, bringing the total number of satellites launched by the Elon Musk-owned space company this year to nearly 900.
The reused Falcon 9 rocket launched 88 satellites for the Transporter-2 mission, including the Pentagon’s first five new satellites and dozens more for various companies, countries and schools.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, marking the company’s 20th launch this year and the eighth flight of the rocket’s first stage booster.
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The booster is back It drops to Earth about 10 minutes later to land on Landing Zone 1, a concrete platform that hasn’t been used for rocket landings since December. The Falcon 9’s boosters typically land on the autonomous ship operating at sea.
Meanwhile, 88 satellites were propelled by the Falcon 9’s second stage booster.
Thirty-six small satellites were installed on a new payload converter designed by Spaceflight, a company that reserves space for small satellites via rockets, along with other satellites arranged by SpaceX.
This was the second mission of the cost-cutting program SmallSat Rideshare, which offers small satellite flights into space starting at $1 million.
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SpaceX launches 88 satellites
Cheaper launch services have revitalized the simple satellite market. SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare program benefits from the growing small satellite market. Companies can provide services ranging from communications to Earth observation.
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The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency has five satellites aboard the Transporter-2 mission. They test laser communications between each other in space. This is in addition to a separate experiment designed to test data processing in space.
These two tests support the agency’s goal of communicating with ships and weapons systems faster than before.
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The Transporter-2 mission brings the total number of satellites launched by SpaceX since late January to nearly 900. That’s double what the entire world launched in any one year before 2020.
The vast majority of these satellites are dedicated to SpaceX’s Starlink Internet network, which continues to grow throughout the year.