Putting satellites into orbit is a costly proposition. SpaceX wants to make it cheaper, and the key to doing that is its reusable rockets and satellite ride-sharing missions like the Spaceflight SSO-A SmallSat Express mission. The mission set a record for SpaceX for putting the most satellites into orbit in one mission; all 64 satellites were confirmed to have deployed successfully.
The rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Monday after delays postponed the original launch window. The mission is one of the largest satellite ride sharing mission ever launched and is said to the mission that put the most satellites into orbit in one swoop. SSO-A, the official designation for the mission was the 19th launch SpaceX has successfully made this year.
Another milestone for the mission was that it marked the first time that SpaceX had used one of its rocket boosters a third time. Interestingly the booster isn’t done ferrying things into space just yet. SpaceX was able to successfully land the booster on a platform in the Pacific Ocean and will get the booster ready for a fourth flight.
That particular milestone will go a long way to realizing SpaceX’s dream of making spaceflight more affordable. SpaceX’s rocket is part of Block 5 designed to fly as many as 100 times before being retired. Block 5 rockets can fly up to ten times before any significant refurbishment is required.
SSO-A used a booster that had flown twice in the last six months. This mission did again attempt to capture the rocket fairing, the nose cone, by floating it down to a net via parachutes. So far recovery of that nosecone hasn’t happened. Musk has said that nosecone costs about $6 million and reusing it would mean significant savings on future missions.