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 9 rocket lifted off at 10 a.m. 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 Jan. 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!”
Andy Tran, a SpaceX production supervisor, said in a video of the launch that the Falcon 9 was carrying 133 commercial and government "spacecraft" as well 10 SpaceX satellites.
"The most spacecraft ever deployed on a single mission," said Tran, reports AFP.
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 $30 billion annually to help fund Musk’s interplanetary rocket program, called Starship.
Sunday's launch marked the third mission this year for SpaceX and the company's second within a week from Florida's Space Coast. On Wednesday (Jan. 20), SpaceX launched a full stack of its Starlink satellites atop a different Falcon 9 as part of a record-breaking mission, reports Space.
(With inputs from AFP and Reuters)