December 2 update: The mission has suffered another 24-hour delay and will take off from Vandenberg on December 3. “Standing down from tomorrow’s launch attempt of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express to conduct additional inspections of the second stage. Working toward a backup launch opportunity on December 3,” SpaceX announced on Twitter a few hours ago.
Tomorrow is an important day for SpaceX. The private rocket company is about to launch a flock of 64 satellites into orbit — and hit a few milestones in the process.
As the Inquisitr recently reported, this daring mission goes by the name of “SSO-A: SmallSat Express” and aims to deploy 49 CubeSats and 15 larger microsatellites into sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). This is the largest number of satellites to fly into space on board a SpaceX vehicle — and the biggest satellite rideshare for any U.S. rocket.
The 64 satellites range in size from a Rubik’s cube to a refrigerator, notes Spaceflight Now, and will hitch a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
This is the same Falcon 9 booster that launched the Bangabandhu-1 satellite in May and flew the Merah Putih satellite into low-Earth orbit in August. Known as B1046, the booster will now soar to the skies for a third time since its inauguration — making tomorrow a historic day for SpaceX.
The highly-anticipated launch has kept space enthusiasts in quite a bit of suspense, especially considering that it has been postponed three times. The “SSO-A: SmallSat Express” was originally slated for November 19, but it got pushed back to November 28, then to December 1, and eventually to December 2.
Now targeting December 2 for launch of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express from Vandenberg Air Force Base.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 29, 2018
The memorable satellite rideshare is finally happening tomorrow, with the Falcon 9 launch currently being scheduled for 1.31 p.m. EST. The rocket will lift off from the company’s SLC-4 launch pad at Vandenberg — the first West Coast launch of the B1046 booster.
After tomorrow, the rocket will become the first Falcon 9 to fly from all three of SpaceX’s orbital facilities — Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and Vandenberg in California.
Falcon 9 rolls out to SpaceX’s West Coast launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of Sunday’s targeted launch of 64 payloads for the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission. Falcon 9’s first stage for this mission completed two East Coast launches & landings this year. pic.twitter.com/7sgsdDzIbQ— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 1, 2018
The 64 satellites hail from 17 different countries and are due to deploy into a sun-synchronous polar orbit 357 miles above the Earth. This special type of orbit will allow the satellites to pass over the same spot of our planet’s surface at the same time each day, the Inquisitr reported in early August, when the mission was first announced.
At the time, the payload of the Falcon 9 included 71 satellites — with seven more CubeSats than it does at this moment.
“The roster of satellites with reservations on the SSO-A mission has changed numerous times over the last three years as some payloads ran into development delays or found other launch opportunities,” Spaceflight Now noted in a previous report.
The mission was contracted by Seattle aerospace company Spaceflight, which bought the entire Falcon 9 back in 2015, as shown in the “SSO-A: SmallSat Express” manifest.
“Not only does it represent the company’s first purchase of an entire Falcon 9 to accommodate the growing number of customers seeking affordable rideshare options to launch their spacecraft into orbit, it’s also an historic launch: it’s the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to date.”
To watch the exciting event, tune in to the SpaceX live stream on YouTube, available at the link below. The webcast is scheduled to begin about 15 minutes before the Falcon 9 liftoff.
“A series of six deployments will occur approximately 13-43 minutes after liftoff, after which Spaceflight will begin to command its own deployment sequences,” SpaceX officials explained in the YouTube link.
“Spaceflight’s deployments are expected to occur over a period of six hours.”
Once the satellite bundle is deployed into orbit, the Falcon 9 first stage will return to Earth and land on the SpaceX “Just Read The Instructions” drone ship stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
On its maiden voyage in May, the B1046 launched from the East Coast and touched down on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean, the Inquisitr reported at the time. Its second flight ended with an ocean landing on the same drone ship. Tomorrow’s touchdown will mark the first time that a Falcon 9 has landed on both SpaceX drone ships.