The highly anticipated Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission has finally soared through the skies this afternoon. After suffering a series of delays, the historic 64-satellite rideshare took to space at 1:34 p.m. ET — lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“This was an incredibly complex mission, and I’m extremely proud of what our talented team at Spaceflight has achieved,” said Spaceflight President Curt Blake.
In a news release from Spaceflight, Blake pointed out that the unique nature of the SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission made it “special because it was completely dedicated to SmallSats.” As the Inquisitr previously reported, the 64-satellite rideshare involved 49 CubeSats and 15 larger microsatellites, belonging to 35 organizations from 17 different countries.
This was the largest number of satellites to ever launch on a single SpaceX rocket, as well as the biggest satellite rideshare in US record.
“We made history today with our SSOA:SmallSat Express mission,” Spaceflight wrote on Twitter a few hours ago.
The mini-satellites — which included a few exotic projects, as the Inquisitr reported earlier today — were lofted into a sun-synchronous polar orbit around 357 miles above our planet.
“Successful deployment of four microsats and the upper and lower free flyer with additional payloads for Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express confirmed,” SpaceX announced on Twitter.
Falcon 9 launches 64 payloads to orbit for the Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission, marking SpaceX’s 19th launch in 2018. pic.twitter.com/oeX98v1t2N
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 4, 2018
While the mission was certainly a milestone for Spaceflight, which purchased the entire rocket three years ago to get the job done, today’s launch marked several important achievements for SpaceX as well.
This latest flight of the Falcon 9 was the 19th since the beginning of 2018 and made SpaceX soar to new heights with a record-number of rocket launches in a year. The previous annual record was set in 2017, when the company flew 18 missions to space, notes Gizmodo.
At the same time, the launch saw a used Falcon 9 booster take to space for the third time since its maiden voyage — strengthening the company’s commitment to reusability.
Falcon 9’s first stage booster for this mission previously completed two launches and landings this year. pic.twitter.com/VXkN0IEGVR
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 3, 2018
After previously launching from Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this particular Falcon 9 booster — dubbed B1046 — has now become the first one to fly from all of SpaceX’s orbital facilities, launching from both the East Coast and the West Coast.
Moreover, the rocket’s first stage landed on the “Just Read The Instructions” drone ship stationed in the Pacific Ocean — thereby becoming the first one to land on both SpaceX drone ships.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship—completing this rocket booster’s third launch and landing this year. pic.twitter.com/DXqT7KH9sM
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 3, 2018
SpaceX doesn’t reuse just rocket boosters. The rocket company deployed its “Mr. Steven” cargo ship to catch the rocket fairings as they plummeted to Earth and plans to recycle them as well.
“Falcon fairing halves missed the net, but touched down softly in the water. Mr Steven is picking them up. Plan is to dry them out and launch again. Nothing wrong with a little swim,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter.