American air transportation service SpaceX has set a new all-time record for the most satellites launched and deployed on a single mission, with its Transporter-1 flight.
The launch marks the first of billionaire Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare missions in which it splits up the payload capacity of its rocket among various customers. This results in a reduced cost for each satellite but still provides SpaceX with a full launch and all the revenue it requires.
The launch included 143 satellites, 133 of which were from other companies who booked rides. SpaceX also launched 10 of its own Starlink satellites, adding to the already more than 1,000 already sent to orbit to power SpaceX’s own broadband communication network.
During a launch broadcast last week, SpaceX revealed that it has begun serving beta customers in Canada and is expanding to the UK with its private pre-launch test of the broadband network.
Customers on the latest launch included the Earth imaging company Planet Labs, which sent up 48 SuperDove Earth imaging satellites, Swarm, which sent up 36 of its own tiny IoT (Internet of Things) communications satellites, and the telecommunications company Kepler, which added to its constellation with eight more of its own communication spacecraft.
The rideshare model that SpaceX now has in place should help smaller new space companies and startups like these build out their operational satellites faster, complementing other small payload launchers like Rocket Lab, and new entrant Richard Branson-owned Virgin Orbit, to name a few.
This SpaceX launch was also the first to deliver Starlink satellites to a polar orbit, which is a key part of the company’s continued expansion of its broadband service.