SpaceX launches 76 satellites in consecutive launches from both coasts

In less than 24 hours since sending a crew of four to the International Space Station, SpaceX achieved yet another milestone by launching 53 commercial satellites from California. Among these satellites was a groundbreaking methane emissions monitor developed by a nonprofit organization. Additionally, SpaceX successfully deployed 23 more Starlink satellites from Florida. The continuous stream of successful launches demonstrates SpaceX’s commitment to advancing space exploration and satellite technology.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft embarked on its journey to the International Space Station (ISS) after a successful launch from the Kennedy Space Center. Powered by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the spacecraft will transport three NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut to the orbiting laboratory. The 28-hour flight marks another milestone in the ongoing collaboration between SpaceX and NASA.

At 5:05 p.m. EST on Monday, a Falcon 9 rocket took off from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base. It ascended towards an orbit around Earth’s poles, while the Crew Dragon continued its course for docking at 3 a.m. EST on Tuesday.

On the spacecraft were 53 small satellites belonging to various vendors, who had secured spots on SpaceX’s 10th “rideshare” mission. These flights are designed to provide smaller operators with the chance to launch their payloads and satellites at a more affordable price. For a 110-pound payload, SpaceX charges $300,000, with an additional cost of $6,000 per pound.

One of the satellites launched on Monday is MethaneSAT, which was developed by a subsidiary of the Environmental Defense Fund. Its purpose is to measure methane emissions across large areas of land and sea using a high-resolution infrared instrument. The goal is to identify previously unnoticed releases from oil and gas operations and other sources. Remarkably, MethaneSAT is the first satellite of its kind to be constructed by a nonprofit organization.

“Everyone thought it was insane,” said Steven Hamburg, the chief scientist of EDF and leader of the MethaneSAT project, as quoted by The New York Times. “To be completely honest, even I thought it was crazy.”

The group successfully secured $88 million from various donors, including the government of New Zealand and the Bezos Earth Fund, to fund the construction of the washing machine-size satellite.

According to a statement by Hamburg, MethaneSAT has the remarkable capability to accurately measure methane levels with great precision across large areas. This includes even the smaller and more dispersed sources that are responsible for the majority of emissions in many regions. Understanding the quantity and location of methane emissions, as well as their rate of change, is crucial for accurate climate modeling.

The Falcon 9’s second stage successfully released the rideshare satellites as scheduled. This process took approximately one hour and 40 minutes, with MethaneSat being the final satellite to be released.

SpaceX successfully launched an additional Falcon 9 from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, further expanding their Starlink broadband network. The launch took place at 6:56 p.m. and included 23 more Starlink broadband relay stations, bringing the total number of satellites launched to date to 5,942.

On its fifth flight, the initial stage employed for the rideshare mission autonomously returned to Vandenberg, executing a precise landing. It propelled the upper stage and payloads beyond the lower atmosphere before gracefully touching down on an off-shore droneship. SpaceX has achieved an impressive milestone with 281 successful first stage recoveries, and an impressive streak of 207 consecutive recoveries.

In a remarkable feat, SpaceX achieved a new record for the number of Falcon 9 launches within a short period of time. With the Starlink flight, the California-based rocket builder successfully launched three Falcon 9s within a span of 20 hours and two within a mere one hour and 51 minutes. This achievement highlights the company’s commitment to frequent and efficient rocket launches. As part of its ambitious plans, SpaceX aims to launch over 140 Falcon-family rockets this year, further solidifying its position as a leader in the space industry.

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MBS Staff
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