SpaceX Rocket Launches 105 Satellites

Jan 17, 2022 | Daily Space, Rockets, Spacecraft, SpaceX

IMAGE: Transporter-3 Mission launch. CREDIT: SpaceX

On January 13 at 15:25 UTC, a SpaceX Falcon 9 launched the Transporter-3 mission into polar orbit from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Like SpaceX’s previous Transporter rideshare missions, Transporter-3 carried 105 CubeSats, smallsats, and orbital tugs to orbit.

Most of the time, Falcon 9 first stages land on an Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship offshore in the Atlantic. Although there were a lot of CubeSats on this mission, they didn’t weigh that much – a few metric tons at most – so SpaceX was able to do a full Return To Launch Site. The RTLS trajectory is preferable as it puts the least amount of stress on the booster’s structure through reentry and landing, but it’s not usually possible because it significantly reduces the amount of payload the rocket can put into orbit.

Speaking of the booster, it was 1058 on its tenth flight, the third Falcon 9 first stage to meet this milestone after boosters 1049 and 1051. Together, these three boosters are responsible for 22% of all Falcon 9 launches.

We don’t have time to go into detail on many of the payloads. I am gonna talk about one of them because it’s really cool: it isn’t a satellite. 

The Mars Outpost Demo will demonstrate cutting a piece of 316 stainless steel with the goal of “exploring the feasibility of reusing abandoned space vehicles”. The payload consists of a robot arm with a cutting wheel, three stainless steel samples, and a video camera to record the cutting. Maxar manufactured the robotic arm with the cutting wheel for Nanoracks, who is in charge of the overall payload. The arm will make its cuts without adding any additional orbital debris, according to Nanoracks. Structural cutting of this type has never been done in space before. The Demo will remain attached to the payload adapter on the Falcon 9’s second stage and be destroyed when it reenters over the South Pacific following a deorbit burn, for a total lifespan of about an hour.

The experiment only has two windows to downlink data from the experiment, one over McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and the other over the continental U.S., where it will have five ground stations to downlink the data to. This will maximize the chances of returning data from the experiment.

More Information

Transporter-3 Mission page (SpaceX via archive.today)

Nanoracks press release

Launch video

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