SpaceX just launched 64 satellites into orbit in historic mission

SpaceX, the brainchild of eccentric billionaire and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, has successfully launched 64 satellites into space – the most satellites ever put into orbit by an American rocket.

The satellites were launched on a rocket used twice before; the booster used for the “SmallSat Express” launch has flown to space and back twice already. This marks the first time SpaceX has reused the first stages of its Falcon 9 rocket again; previously, the company has only reused boosters that have flown once before.

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Musk took to Twitter, his favourite platform, to sing the rocket’s praises. “64 satellites on this flight!” he wrote, jubilantly, retweeting his company’s confirmation of “Successful deployment of four microsats and the upper and lower free flyer with additional payloads for Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express confirmed”.

In an artistic twist, the rocket has come equipped with a piece of “space art”, developed by the artist Trevor Paglen. The piece in question is a 100-foot reflective balloon that will be visible from Earth. Paglen’s other work focuses on mass surveillance and data collection. It’s not the first time he’s worked with space; “The Other Night Sky” is a project of Paglen which aims to track and photograph, among other things, classified American satellites and space debris.

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The duo’s decision to launch the balloon into the sky has caused upset among astronomers, many of whom reckon it contributes to the so-called space junk which makes their work harder.

Nevertheless, the project marks – forgive me – one huge leap for Musk, whose ultimate goal is reusing a rocket booster within 24 hours. And while the current time frame for separating each relaunch is around three months, Musk is notoriously indefatigable when it comes to pursuing his lofty goals. Although he has been known to get it wrong (see: submarine-gate).

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