SpaceX will for the first time launch a Falcon 9 booster on its third flight on Monday, as part of a mission to deliver a cluster of small satellites to low Earth orbit. Liftoff is scheduled for a twenty-eight minute launch window that opens at 10:32 Pacific Time (18:31 UTC). The launch was delayed from Sunday.
Designated SSO-A or the SmallSat Express, the cargo for this launch consists not of a single primary payload but of a collection of smaller satellites from companies and organizations around the world that are sharing their journey into space. The rideshare mission has been co-ordinated by Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries and consists of 64 satellites for 34 customers from 17 different countries and the European Space Agency.
Originally named the 2017 Sun-Synch Express, when it was expected to launch last year, the SSO-A mission is targeting a sun-synchronous orbit. This is a special type of near-polar low Earth orbit which allows a satellite to pass over points on the Earth’s surface at the same mean local solar time, allowing similar lighting conditions for observation and research.
Rideshare satellites have become increasingly common in recent years, typically in the form of smaller satellites hitching a ride ...