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SpaceX kicked off 2023 with its 200th mission to date and one that saw the company launch more than a hundred different payloads to space as part of its sixth transporter mission. The Transporter mission series is SpaceX's use of its medium lift rocket to target the small satellite market, as the larger rocket enables it to carry more payloads than competing firms' smaller rockets can. The Falcon 9 took off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, and it marked another occasion when the rocket was launched for the 14th time, nearing the reusability record of 16 flights that was set by another Falcon 9 booster late last year.
SpaceX Launches Sixth Transporter Mission As It Keeps Iron Grip On Small Satellite Market
The Falcon 9 lifted off right on the dot at 9:56 am eastern time today, and made another land landing just eight and a half minutes later. However, due to the nature of the mission, the second stage had to coast for longer, as it raised its altitude to the right height and orientation to enable payload deployment.
After it separated from the first stage, the second stage coasted for three quarters of an hour before it lit up its engine for the second time. Roughly an hour after liftoff, the second stage's Merlin vacuum engine started up again for two seconds to adjust its orbit and deploy the payload. It was also the last second stage burn for the mission, and the overall orbit targetted is a sun synchronous orbit.
According to SpaceX, they are targeting up to three missions that target this particular orbit each year. The mission itself saw 114 payloads launched in the form of 82 deployments. These payloads cover a wide variety of different satellites, such as those for weather monitoring, environmental changes, Internet of Things (IoT) satellites, emissions monitoring spacecraft and more.
The first part of the deployment saw 33 deployments which occurred at regular intervals. Live footage showed the satellites jettisoning out of the second stage like clockwork as part of a 'dispenser' mechanism that SpaceX has been rumored to adopt for the Starship rocket. Presentations shared by the company have outlined a 'satellite dispenser,' a horizontal cutout on the upper stage Starship to deploy the Starlink satellites quickly and easily.
Roughly eight minutes after the first set of deployments, the final phase of deployments took place at roughly 544 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Of course, any space launch is incomplete without some great visuals, and this time around, the sunrise was pictured on the Earth as the second stage flew over Greenland and into North America.
Visuals showed the entire area draped in thick white clouds as part of a historic snow storm that has disrupted lives and caused record cold in the U.S. and in Canada. The final satellite was deployed an hour and a half after liftoff, and at that point, SpaceX could only confirm 77 deployments. However, the company confirmed soon on its social media that all deployments were successful.
SpaceX's next mission can be one for OneWeb, whose launches on the Russian Soyuz rocket were scrapped in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. The company set a new record in 2022 by completing 61 successful launches, and if statements by its chief Mr. Elon Musk bear fruit, then 2023 could be the first year that SpaceX finishes 100 launches.