A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket increased 40 payloads into orbit on Friday on the company’s fourth “rideshare” mission, a relatively inexpensive way to space for a variety of small satellites and sensors that would otherwise need to connect tours with other providers on a space-available basis.
The largest and most expensive satellite aboard the Falcon 9 was the German space agency’s $ 330 million Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program, or EnMAP, remote sensing satellite mounted on top of the ATM.
Equipped with a telescope and two spectrometers, EnMAP is designed to detect sunlight reflected from the surface over 242 different wavelengths, or colors. Light analyzes will help researchers and decision-makers better understand health in targeted areas, from agriculture and forestry to water quality.
“We have a separate image for each wavelength range, which we can then analyze,” Sebastian Fischer, the mission manager, told Spaceflight Now. “And we can detect, for example, if a plant does not have enough water, or if the plant lacks nutrients.”
Also aboard the Falcon 9: “CubeSat, micro-kit, pico-kit, non-deploying host-based payloads and an orbital transfer vehicle carrying spacecraft to be deployed at a later date,” said SpaceX on its website.
The mission began at 12:24 when the Falcon 9 rocket, with a first leg making its seventh flight, exploded from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Arching toward a polar orbit, the first stage lifted the rocket out of the lower atmosphere and then fell away as the second stage continued its climb into space.
EnMAP was released after the first of three second-stage engine launches, and propelled off on its own 14 minutes after launch. Two other smaller satellites were then released before two more engine launches to fine-tune the orbit of the rest of the payload.
The remaining satellites were released from a central dispenser at the top of the second stage, starting about one hour and 15 minutes after launch.
The launch marked SpaceX’s fourth rideshare mission, a unique launch service that lets multiple small satellite owners and operators share space on a Falcon 9. Including a recent price hike due to inflation, the cost could be as low as $ 1.1 million for satellites weighing up to 440 pounds.
SpaceX launched a record with 143 satellites on its first carpool mission in January 2021, 88 on its second mission in June last year and 105 on the Transporter 3 mission earlier this year. Based on growing demand, the company now plans three carpooling assignments per year.