A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is prepared for launch on Thursday at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Photo courtesy of SpaceX
ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 13 (UPI) -- SpaceX successfully launched 105 satellites from Florida on Thursday morning as part of its rideshare program, which it uses to release satellites for dozens of customers in a single mission.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off into blue sky on the Transporter-3 mission as planned at 10:25 a.m. EST from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station near Kennedy Space Center.
"Alright, as you can see Falcon 9 has cleared the tower, lifted off from Cape Canaveral," SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said during a live broadcast.
Many of the spacecraft on board were no bigger than a shoebox as satellites, like phones and desktop computers, use more miniaturized components.
The spacecraft flew together into orbit for about an hour, after which clusters of satellites were released periodically over about 30 minutes. SpaceX confirmed successful deployment of all but two spacecraft and said it would attempt to confirm the final two this afternoon.
The launch is the third in SpaceX's Transporter rideshare program that began in January 2021.
"SpaceX is targeting at least three dedicated rideshare flights to sun synchronous orbit per year," Tice said. "And we also offer opportunities for a ride to orbit on our Starlink missions which launch every couple of weeks."
The first-stage booster flew for the tenth time and returned to a landing pad about 10 miles away from the launch site within nine minutes of liftoff. SpaceX expected that booster to create a sonic boom heard throughout the region.
One company on board, Madrid-based FOSSA Systems, specializes in tiny satellites for so-called "Internet of Things" (IoT) communication. For example, such a service might connect devices like keychains to the Internet, so customers can find their keys.
FOSSA posted about the launch Wednesday on Twitter: "The countdown for the deployment of our first 6 FOSSASAT-2E IoT has started! Tomorrow, January 13, the launch of our first 6 picosatellites will take place with our partners... also demonstrating our PocketPod deployer and launches to LEO for PocketQubes."
The company's deployer could be used to distribute other types of satellites in the future, according to FOSSA.
Additional customers Thursday included San Francisco-based Planet, which saw 44 of its small SuperDove spacecraft launched for Earth observation, and the Ukrainian government, which also launched an Earth observation satellite.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches NASA's third crew to the International Space Station at 9:03 p.m. November 10 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo