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SpaceX launches record-setting mission without a hitch

Jan. 24 (UPI) — Elon Musk‘s SpaceX launched 143 small satellites into space Sunday morning, setting a world record for the most spacecraft sent to orbit on a single mission.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellites for the Transporter-1 mission lifted off at 10 a.m. EST under partially cloudy skies — but satisfactory enough for a safe launch — toward a somewhat rare polar orbit, controllers said.

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With more than a dozen customers, the mission’s largest number of satellites came from San Francisco-based Planet (formerly Planet Labs), with 38 SuperDove spacecraft for Earth observation and imaging.

SpaceX packed 10 its Starlink communications satellites on board, which were the last to be deployed into orbit at 11:32 a.m. EST.

The also rocket carried three satellites the size of coffee mugs for a NASA experiment on satellite-to-satellite communication and several platforms owned by launch brokers, such as Houston-based Nanoracks, that carry numerous tiny satellites for other companies.

The first-stage reusable booster landed on a robotic ship’s deck in the Atlantic Ocean — something that has become routine for SpaceX. This was the fifth time the booster had been used.

Both halves of the second-stage rocket fairings were recovered, as well, SpaceX said.

Out-of-this-world images from space

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four astronauts is pictured approaching the International Space Station for docking on November 16, 2020. The trip from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida took 27 and a half hours. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

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