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SpaceX Pulls Off Most Ambitious Satellite Launch to Date

In what is being called the company’s commercial satellite “rideshare” service, the Sunday launch of a Falcon 9 rocket successfully sent a record-breaking 143 satellites into space.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 logo on a rocket.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 logo on a rocket.
Shutterstock/Sundry Photography
(TNS) — SpaceX has successfully sent a record-breaking 143 satellites soaring into space as part of its commercial satellite "rideshare" service.

One of the most ambitious missions for SpaceX, its Falcon 9 rocket launched into orbit Sunday morning (Jan. 24) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, according to Amy Thompson with Space.com.

"The flight allowed SpaceX to flex its ridesharing muscles in a carefully choreographed orbital ballet as its flagship rocket ferried its largest number of payloads yet," Thompson wrote.

The mission called Transporter-1 carried a troupe of satellites including 10 of SpaceX's Starlink broadband units.

The flat-paneled Starlink satellites will serve to provide coverage to customers in Alaska and other polar regions, Thompson wrote. "A first for its broadband fleet."

In addition, Transporter-1 also carried over 130 satellites for paying customers such as Planet, "which operates a constellation of Earth-imaging satellites, according to Jackie Wattles with CNN Business.

In 2019, SpaceX announced it would offer rideshares on its Falcon 9 rockets throughout the year for the price of $1 million per launch, Thompson said.

Cosmic rideshares aren't new, as SpaceX has sent payload missions for various companies since SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced the company's StarLink initiative in 2015. In 2018, a rocket dubbed SSO-A sent 64 satellites into low-Earth orbit, Thompson noted.

While this is exciting news for SpaceX, experts fear the large number of satellites being sent into Earth's orbit could cause interference for existing research being conducted.

Adam Mann with Space.com shared a statement from The International Astronomical Union voicing their concerns with the satellite missions.

"Satellite constellations can pose a significant or debilitating threat to important existing and future astronomical infrastructures, and we urge their designers and deployers as well as policy-makers to work with the astronomical community in a concerted effort to analyse and understand the impact of satellite constellations."

These criticisms have been met with promises of good faith and cooperation by SpaceX officials.

"SpaceX is absolutely committed to finding a way forward so our Starlink project doesn't impede the value of the research you all are undertaking," said Patricia Cooper, vice president of SpaceX's satellite government affairs division.

©2021 the Houston Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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