At 10:34 a.m. PT (1:34 p.m. ET) today, and under clear blue skies, a Falcon 9 rocket blasted into space. The 64 miniature satellites belong to companies, governments and research institutions in 17 different countries.
The SpaceX launch also carries experiments such as PW-Sat2, a student-built satellite from the Warsaw University of Technology in Poland that will test a four-meter deorbit sail. No SpaceX rocket has ever flown more than twice. Minutes after launch, it touched down on a drone ship stationed out in the Pacific Ocean, christened "Just Read the Instructions".
The mission also will mark the third flight for the booster's first stage, which previously launched two missions from Florida, SpaceX representatives said. The fairing-a cone-like structure that protects satellites, equipment, food, and other items during the journey into space-was supposed to be caught in the netting of a recovery vessel known as Mr. Steven.
Monday's mission will be SpaceX's 19th launch of the year.
Usually, these kinds of small satellites would fly to space as secondary payloads aboard a rocket with a larger space mission of some kind, but these 64 satellites got their own rides to space on a reusable rocket.
The Falcon had an especially large payload for this mission, Spaceflight Industries' SSO-A: SmallSat Express made up of 64 CubeSats and micro satellites for assorted customers across the globe.
According to SpaceX, this kind of reusability is the future of spaceflight.
When the Falcon 9 reached space today, its nose cone fell away, and the satellites began to emerge.
Among the satellites crammed into the payload stack was an Australian-built device that will connect remote devices to the internet, and a pair of SkySats-one from the USA and one from Finland-that'll be used to track planes and ships.
Spaceflight declined to release a full list of what satellites and payloads are launching aboard its mission.
"The mission. signifies the company's first dedicated rideshare mission to a sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit", Spaceflight said in a statement.
Additional payloads range from the U.S. Air Force's STPSat-5 spacecraft to Orbital Reflector, a cubesat carrying an inflatable sculpture from the Nevada Museum of Art and artist Trevor Paglen that will remain in orbit, visible from the ground, for several weeks.