Rocket with Payload of More Than 60 Small Satellites Successfully Launched From Central Coast

Dec 3, 2018

It’s like an Uber for satellites. A rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base with not one, not two, not ten, but more than 60 satellites on board. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base carried the array of small satellites into orbit Monday morning.

Curt Blake is the president of Spaceflight, the company which organized the SSO-A SmallSat Express project. The launch from the Central Coast marks the largest single rideshare mission from a U-S based rocket.

Launching the small satellites was complex. The aerospace company president says part of the challenge was getting them safely into orbit. Blake says the other part was deploying them so they wouldn’t collide, and would properly become active. A 20 foot high launch vehicle separated into two parts in orbit, and then they gradually deployed the satellites over a five hour period.

The mission had a couple of false starts. The initial launch date last month was scrubbed to allow more time for preflight checks. A second launch window was missed last week because of weather concerns. Then, on Sunday the decision was made to postpone one more time to allow some more preflight checks.

Monday’s fourth attempt went as planned, with the rocket taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base just after 10:30 a.m. The daytime launch was widely visible on the Central and South Coasts. The flight went as planned, with the SpaceX rocket getting the satellite into orbit, and the reusable booster rocket landing on a barge off the coast.

Spaceflight President Curt Blake says the company’s rideshare concept is finding a receptive market. The Seattle based company has contracts to launch nearly 100 satellites in 2019.