After a slight delay, SpaceX has smashed a record for sending spacecraft into orbit. The company successfully launched its Transporter-1 mission carrying an unprecedented 143 satellites, including 133 commercial and government customer vehicles and 10 Starlink machines. The Falcon 9 rocket, which supported Crew Dragon Demo-2, landed aboard a drone ship in the Atlantic.
This was SpaceX’s first dedicated mission in its SmallSat Rideshare Program. The project helps make deliveries of cubesats and other small vessels practical for customers that might not otherwise afford them, with prices starting at a relatively low $1 million. To put it another way, the program is competition for the likes of Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit.
The Starlink satellites are the first in the broadband internet constellation to deploy in a polar orbit, SpaceX added.
The mission gives SpaceX bragging rights, of course, but it’s also important for the company’s bottom line. To date, many of its launches have focused on considerably larger payloads from satellite communications firms, the government and other conventional clients. This brings in more customers and helps SpaceX make the most of its rocket fleet — don’t be surprised if the launch schedule is busier going forward.