Washington [US]: American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company SpaceX is all set to launch the very first of its dedicated rideshare missions, which allows small satellite operators to book a portion of a payload on the company's Falcon 9 launch.
According to Tech Crunch, SpaceX's rocket has a relatively high payload capacity compared to the size of many of the smaller satellites produced currently, hence, a rideshare mission like this offers smaller companies and startups a chance to get their spacecraft in orbit without breaking the bank. The current attempt is scheduled for 10 AM EST (7 AM PST) after a first try yesterday was cancelled due to weather.
The cargo capsule on top of the Falcon 9 flying today holds a total of 143 satellites according to SpaceX, which is a new record for the highest number of satellites being launched on a single rocket - beating out a payload of 104 spacecraft delivered by Indian Space Research Organization's PSLV-C37 launch back in February 2017.
This is going to be a key demonstration not only for SpaceX's rideshare capabilities but also of the complex coordination involved in a launch that includes the deployment of multiple payloads into different target orbits in relatively quick succession.
As per Tech Crunch, this launch will be closely be watched in particular for its handling of orbital traffic management, since it definitely heralds what the future of private space launches could look like in terms of volume of activity. Some of the satellites flying on this mission are not much larger than an iPad, so industry experts will be paying close attention to how they're deployed and tracked to avoid any potential conflicts.