SpaceX launches 88 satellites into orbit and nails rocket landing

CAPE CANAVERAL (Fla.) SpaceX launched an ambitious rideshare mission Wednesday (30 June), when one of its veteran boosters lifted 88 small satellites into orbit before returning to Earth.After a delay of 24 hours due to a range violation by a plane flying in restricted airspace, the Falcon 9 rocket took off in a cloudy afternoon sky from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.The original launch was scheduled for Friday, June 25, but the complex Transporter-2 mission was postponed a few days to allow more prelaunch checkouts. The range violation caused another 24-hour delay. SpaceX was only seconds away from launching a Falcon 9 rocket packed with small satellites, when it entered the safety zone. The teams had to cancel Tuesday's launch attempt.SpaceX launches Transporter 2, a rideshare service, and secures LZ-1 landing in Florida.Similar: A SpaceX rocket pilot lands on a droneship in stunning new videoSpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Transporter-2 rideshare mission, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on June 30, 2021. SpaceX image creditElon Musk, the founder of the company and CEO, was unhappy about Tuesday's delay. He tweeted that the incident was an example of why some changes must be made to launch restrictions.Musk tweeted, "Unfortunately launch was called off today as an aircraft entered a 'keep out' zone which is unreasonably huge." Without major regulatory reform, there is no way humanity can be a spacefaring civilization. The current regulatory system has failed."However, Wednesday was a clear day with no planes blocking the Falcon's flight path. The rocket flew right on schedule, roaring overhead, as it soared through space.After separating from its upper stage, the first stage of the rocket returned to Cape Town via the overhead cloud layer. As the booster moved through the atmosphere, sonic booms were heard overhead. These are when a spacecraft travels at a speed faster than sound. The sound of the sonic blast traveled faster in Florida's warm and humid climate than in cold, dry conditions.An old SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 88 small satellites is seen atop Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. It will be launched on June 29, 2021. SpaceX image creditAtop the veteran launcher was a collection of 88 small satellites 85 designed for government and commercial customers, and three SpaceX Starlink satellites that flew together in Transporter-2, the company's second dedicated rideshare mission.SpaceX was able to show off its ridesharing skills in an orchestrated orbital ballet, as its rocket carried a large load of small satellites. The satellites were nearly as heavy as the 143 satellites SpaceX launched earlier this year on Transporter-1.SpaceX launched a number of small satellites into space as part of a cosmic carpool and placed them in a polar orbit. The rocket launched straight into the sky, appearing to be flying high above the clouds and into the air as it soared off the pad.After a successful liftoff the Falcon 9's firststage landed on SpaceX’s LZ-1 dedicated landing pad. It is just a few miles away from where it was launched. This was the 89th successful landing of a SpaceX first-stage booster and the first Landing of the Year. (All 19 SpaceX launches in this year's past landed their first stage boosters on one of two company drone ships, "Of course I Still Love You" or "Just Read The Instructions".Image 1 of 3 After launching the Transporter-2 rideshare orbit mission, on June 30, 2021, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lands at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. (Image credit SpaceX) Image 2 A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket touches Down at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, after it launched the Transporter-2 rideshare orbit mission on June 30, 2021. (Image credit SpaceX) Image 3 of 3 After launching the Transporter-2 orbital rideshare mission, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket touches land at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. SpaceX image creditThis launch marks SpaceX's 20th mission of the year and SpaceX's fourth within one month of Florida's Space Coast.Today's launch is powered by a SpaceX rocket, one of its frequent fliers. It marks the eighth flight of the Transporter-2 mission. The booster, also known as B1060 was launched one year ago today. It carried an upgraded GPS III satellite to the U.S. Space Force.The booster carried five groups of SpaceX Starlink satellites. This helped to expand the company's mega constellation. It also carried a Turkish communications satellite into orbit.The Falcon 9 was a veteran space taxi service that delivered the 88 satellites to orbit for its eighth act. It took place just two months after its previous flight. This mission is the second in a series of dedicated rideshares that SpaceX has created to assist smaller satellites by sharing rides and reducing costs.In 2019, SpaceX announced that it would offer ride on its Falcon 9 rockets for $1 million per launch and at specific times throughout the year. SpaceX has a dedicated website where you can book these flights.Officials from the Space Development Agency (SDA), a government agency, say these types of rideshare missions have changed the way people can access's Derek Tournear, director at the SDA, stated that "the whole Transporter mission concept was brilliant." "The concept works like a bus, it launches every now and then. You just get on when your ready."Similar: View the evolution of SpaceX's rockets through picturesA fleet of small satellitesSpaceflight Inc. helped to facilitate the Transporter-2 rideshare mission. This company helps customers who want to launch small satellites to book their perfect ride.Up until recently, small satellites had few options and were limited in their ability to get on missions where there was room. With the advent of rideshare missions such as this and the rise of small launchers like Rocket Lab Electron and Virgin Orbit, launch costs are dropping and smaller satellites now have more options for getting a ride into space.It is not easy to launch so many satellites simultaneously. Each satellite must be launched in a predetermined sequence to avoid possible collisions. Specialized launch dispensers and free-flying transfer stage are used to address this problem. Once in orbit, they will deploy payloads.Each satellite is released at the exact right moment. This reduces the possibility of an inflight anomaly.Related: Russia warns SpaceX Starlink satellite, space junk could narrowly miss Progress cargo ship in 30, 2021 confirms the deployment of 3 Starlink satellitesAfter its set of Mandrake Satellites, a joint project for DARPA and the Air Force, the SDA is no stranger in space anomalies. The satellites form part of the Blackjack Project which shows satellite technologies for military applications. The satellites, originally intended to fly on Transporter-1 were damaged in the loading process prior to launch.Tournear stated that these things can happen sometimes, but that the Transporter mission model's flexibility allowed them to fly again in nine months. This feat would have been much more difficult historically, but for the rideshare option and advances in satellite manufacturing, it was possible to quickly turnaround.There are several launches that the SDA plans to launch, including dedicated SpaceX missions in the coming years. The small cubesats are used as part of the technology demonstration mission.General Atomics designed and built two additional satellites that will contribute to the overall mission of the SDA, which is to improve satellite operations in space.The Optical Communications Terminal (OCT), a duo that will test satellite communication in orbit, is called the Optical Communication Terminal. The pair will drift slowly until they are approximately 300 miles (500 km) apart after they have deployed from Falcon's upperstage.The OCT satellites will then attempt to communicate with one another. The OCT satellites will then try to send images, videos and other data back and forth. They are also equipped with an infrared imaging paymentload to allow them to see the ground.The ultimate goal of this project is to increase the resilience and security of communications, and eventually to test satellite-to–UAV (uncrewed air vehicle) communication technologies.A group of small satellites, called Space Bees, was also aboard Transporter-2. These small satellites are designed to demonstrate two-way communication between low- and high-data satellites. These satellites could be used to provide reliable internet access in remote areas of the world.Three payloads are available on Transporter-2 for Nanoracks. Spire built and operates the constellation of satellites, Lemur. The constellation is designed to assist with Earth observation and traffic monitoring. It uses GPS signal occultation for pressure, humidity, temperature measurements.Lemur can also be used to monitor trade, stop piracy and track assets. It can also assist in search-and-rescue operations and prevent illegal fishing.These are only a few of the satellites that are part of Falcon's payload fairing.Polar flightThis graphic shows the Flight Profile for SpaceX's Transporter-2 Mission. SpaceX image creditThis mission's launch path is also unique. It will follow the same path as last summer's launch from Cape Canaveral. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral and traveled eastward over the Atlantic Ocean to deposit its payload in what is known as a Polar orbit. This orbit allows satellites to fly above the planet's poles.These types of flights are more likely to launch from the West Coast because they are easier to avoid densely populated areas. SpaceX was granted permission last summer to launch flights to polar orbits. This is thanks to an innovative feature of the Falcon 9: an automated flight termination mechanism.This system is intended to destroy the rocket if something happens during flight. The system was historically controlled by a human being, but it is not as accurate as a computer. The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are currently the only two launch vehicles on Cape with this capability.The U.S. Space Force made it a requirement for all future launch vehicles to have this capability by 2023. It not only unlocks unique launch paths, but also facilitates a faster launch cadence.SpaceX will also recover the first stage booster. SpaceX will continue to search for the clamshell-like hardware that surrounds the stack of satellites. This is called the payload fairing, or rocket's nose cone.SpaceX has hired a boat called HOS Briarwood to accomplish this. After the launch, the fairings will be taking part in the third flight from the ocean by the vessel.Follow Amy Thompson @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Facebook @Spacedotcom and Twitter @astrogingersnap