SpaceX Launches Record 143 Satellites

Falcon 9 launches Transporter-1 rideshare mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX set a new world record on Sunday by launching 143 satellites into Earth orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

The Sunday morning polar orbit launch included 133 commercial and government spacecraft along with 10 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband communications constellation. The launch was conducted from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Payloads aboard the rocket included:

  • 48 SuperDove Earth observation satellites for San Francisco-based Planet
  • 36 spacecraft for Swarm Technologies of Palo Alto, Calif., doubling the company’s constellation and data transfer satellites
  • 20 satellites and two instruments aboard D-Orbit’s ION SCV Laurentius satellite
  • 10 Starlink global broadband satellites for SpaceX
  • 8 Spire LEMUR-2 satellites that will provide ship tracking and other services
  • 8 GEN1 communications spacecraft for Kepler Communications of Canada
  • 5 Internet of Things (IoT) satellites for Astrocast of Switzerland
  • 3 synthetic aperture radar satellites (SAR) for the Finnish company ICEYE
  • 3 V-R3x technology demonstration satellites for NASA
  • 3 radio frequency data satellites for HawkEye 360 of Virginia
  • 2 SAR satellites for Capella Space of San Francisco
  • GHGSat-C2 Hugo emissions monitoring satellite for GHGSat of Canada
  • iQPS-2 SAR satellite for iQPS of Japan
  • Hiber Four IoT satellite for Hiber of Amsterdam
  • NanoAvionics-built radio frequency spectrum satellite for U.S.-based Aurora Insight
  • NASA Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator-1 satellite, whose thrusters are powered by water
  • ashes of 104 individuals for the space burial company Celestis Inc.

Nanoracks completed its first rideshare mission, which it named Eyries-1. The company deployed eight LEMUR-2 satellites for Spire and the GHGSat-C2 Hugo emissions monitoring spacecraft for GHGSat.

“It was so exciting being part of the first completely dedicated smallsat rideshare mission launched by SpaceX, and we look forward to being a long-term provider of access to these types of flights,” said External Payloads Manager Tristan Prejean in a press release. “Now our customers can get the same level of customer service they know from our Space Station missions, but they have the flexibility to choose between the Space Station, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus, and SpaceX Rideshare launches. We’re a one-stop shop for any orbital destination.”

Italy-based D-Orbit’s ION Pulse mission will 20 satellites from its ION SCV Laurentius spacecraft, including eight SuperDove Earth observation satellites for Planet.

After completing the satellite deployments, Laurentius will conduct the in-orbit demonstration and validation of two commercial payloads:

  • ARGO, a fully autonomous plug & play star tracker developed by EICAS Automazione.
  • DRAGO – Demonstrator for Remote Analysis of Ground Observations, a short-wave infrared space camera for Earth observation developed by the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC).

Exolaunch of Berlin, Germany, launched 30 spacecraft for U.S. and European customers that included NanoAvionics, Dresden Technical University, and the German Aerospace Center. Satellites will perform IoT, Earth observation and various scientific applications.

“Through our partnership with SpaceX, Exolaunch has become the bridge for multiple European smallsat developers and others from around the world interested to launch on Falcon 9,” said Exolaunch Vice President of Launch Services Jeanne Medvedeva said in a press release. “As the SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program takes off and expands, more organizations will have the opportunity to launch their satellites into orbit though our tailored, flight-proven, and cost-effective launch and deployment solutions.”

​Spaceflight Inc. launched 16 payloads for customers, with 15 of them aboard the company’s next-generation Sherpa-FX1 orbital transfer vehicle.

SpaceX’s 10 Starlink satellites were the first to be launched into polar orbit. The company has now launched 1,025 Starlink spacecraft, with an estimated 951 in orbit.

Falcon 9’s first stage booster successfully landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster previously supported launch of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission, the ANASIS-II mission, a Starlink mission, and launch of Dragon’s 21st cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.