Watch Live as SpaceX Launches 51 Small Satellites for Its Latest Rideshare Mission
SpaceX has packed more than 50 payloads into a Falcon 9 rocket as the company prepares for its latest rideshare mission.OffEnglish
The Transporter-7 mission is scheduled to launch on Friday at 2:47 a.m. ET (Thursday at 11:47 p.m. PT) from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, according to SpaceX. You can watch the liftoff live through SpaceX's website or by tuning in to the feed below. The live feed is scheduled to begin about 10 minutes before launch time.
As the name suggests, the launch will mark SpaceX's seventh rideshare mission. The missions are designed to provide low-cost access to space for smaller payloads (and for smaller companies, for that matter), and with rates as low as $275,000 to send 110 pounds (50 kilograms) to Sun-synchronous orbit. Typically, small-sat and micro-sat manufacturers would be forced to piggyback aboard a mission featuring a primary payload or two, but SpaceX decided to service the small satellite market through its rideshare program.
SpaceX's inaugral Transporter mission kicked off in January 2021 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, carrying 143 satellites on board. The most recent rideshare mission, Transporter-6, launched on January 3, 2023 with 114 satellites.
Transporter-7 is carrying a significantly lower number of satellites, including microsatellites and nanosatellites destined for a Sun-synchronous orbit. The mission's payloads include Kenya's first operational nanosatellite; called Taifa-1, it's an Earth-observing satellite and the first in a constellation that the African country wants to build in orbit to help monitor its habitat and agricultural land.
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Another payload on board the Falcon 9 belongs to AstroForge. The aspiring asteroid mining company hopes to test its rock refining capabilities in deep space with OrbAstro--a spacecraft that will attempt to vaporize onboard asteroid-like material and break it down into its elemental components, and do so for the first time in zero gravity.
NASA is also sending two cubesats to study Earth's atmosphere as part of its Low-Latitude Ionosphere/Thermosphere Enhancements in Density mission, also known as LLITED.
Given the large number of satellites on board the mission, and given the low-cost and experimental nature of some projects, there is a higher chance that some might fail. So far, at least one satellite launched aboard SpaceX's Transporter-6 mission has failed. Space startup Launcher said its Orbiter SN1 failed due to a loss of power caused by the spacecraft's GPS antenna system. But the company is still planning on launching more of its payload on SpaceX's rideshare mission, targeting the upcoming Transporter-8 for a ride to space.
Want to know more about Elon Musk's space venture? Check out our full coverage of SpaceX's Starship megarocket and the SpaceX Starlink internet satellite megaconstellation. And for more spaceflight in your life, follow us on Twitter and bookmark Gizmodo's dedicated Spaceflight page.