SpaceX just performed another rocket launch and landing.
A two-stage falcon 9 The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida today (April 1) at 12:24 p.m. EDT (1624 GMT) and delivered 40 spacecraft into orbit for a variety of customers.
These spacecraft are a motley crew consisting of “cubesats, microsats, picosats, non-deployable hosted payloads, and an orbital transfer vehicle with spacecraft scheduled for deployment at a later date.” SpaceX wrote in a Description of today’s missionknown as Transporter 4.
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All deployable payloads will be free flying within 90 minutes of launch if all goes according to plan.
The Falcon 9 first stage, meanwhile, returned to Earth for a vertical, powered landing on SpaceX’s drone ship Just Read the Instructions, stationed hundreds of miles off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was the seventh launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first stage. The booster also helped launch the Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronaut missions International Space Station (ISS) in November 2020 and April 2021 respectively; the communications satellite SiriusXM in June 2021; the CRS-23 cargo flight to the ISS in August 2021; and a batch of SpaceX Starlink Internet satellites, as per Transporter 4’s mission statement.
As impressive as seven takeoffs and landings are, it’s far from a SpaceX record. A Falcon 9 first stage less than two weeks ago withdrawn for the 12th time, successfully put 53 Starlink satellites into orbit. The booster also came down for a drone landing that day.
Transporter 4 is the fourth small satellite “rideshare” mission launched by SpaceX. The company’s first such mission, Transporter 1, lofted a record 143 satellites January 2021 into orbit.
There’s more action coming up today as NASA officially begins the “wet dress rehearsal” for its Artemis 1 Moon mission, a crucial test that will pave the way for launch in a few months.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall. Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom or on Facebook.