- SpaceX launched 64 satellites, belonging to various public and private organizations, into low orbit on Monday.
- The company launched the satellites aboard its reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
- Some of the satellites deployed on the mission come from companies seeking to revolutionize the Internet of Things.
On Monday afternoon, SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, soared into low Earth orbit and deployed 64 satellites. Then, the rocket began a controlled descent back toward Earth, landing safely on a SpaceX drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.
The unprecedented mission marked the most satellites ever deployed in a single launch, and also the first time a reusable rocket has been launched and landed three times. It was SpaceX’s 19th launch for 2018, the most the company has ever conducted in a single year.
SpaceX said it was “one of the most complex and intricate endeavors” it’s ever undertaken. To launch the 64 satellites safely into orbit, engineers had to carefully pack them into a 20-foot stack divided into two parts.
Dubbed Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express, the mission was organized by a Seattle-based company called Spaceflight Industries, which coordinates CubeSat launches for companies and universities worldwide. The deployed satellites belonged to 34 private and public organizations, including a handful of startups hoping to be among the first to revolutionize the Internet of Things (IoT—which, in simple terms, is “the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other),” according to Forbes writer Jacob Morgan.
SpaceX is in a unique position to help revolutionize the IoT. With its reusable rocket technology, the company can offer “rideshare” missions that launch private satellites into orbit at unprecedentedly low prices, while still earning billions in the process. These new networks could yield exponential amounts of opportunity.
“Low earth orbit is not unlike smartphones,” Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight, told Wired. “When you really lower the cost of phones—or rocket launches—people come up with a whole bunch of new applications.”
Monday’s mission was separate from SpaceX’s Starlink project, which seeks to provide all corners of the planet with wireless internet beamed from 7,500 satellites in low Earth orbit.