Need a lift? SpaceX launches record spacecraft in cosmic rideshare programme

This Spacex handout video frame grab image shows the Spacex Falcon 9 liftoff in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan 24, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/SPACEX

MIAMI (REUTERS) - A veteran rocket from billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX aerospace company launched 143 spacecraft into space on Sunday (Jan 24), a new record for the most spaceships deployed on a single mission, according to the company.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 10am EST from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It flew south along the eastern coast of Florida on its way to space, the company said.

The reusable rocket ferried 133 commercial and government spacecraft and 10 Starlink satellites to space - part of the company's SmallSat Rideshare Programme, which provides access to space for small satellite operators seeking a reliable, affordable ride to orbit, according to the company.

SpaceX delayed the launch one day because of unfavourable weather. On Jan 22m Mr Musk, also chief executive of Tesla Inc, wrote on Twitter: "Launching many small satellites for a wide range of customers tomorrow. Excited about offering low-cost access to orbit for small companies!"

SpaceX has previously launched to orbit more than 800 satellites of the several thousand needed to offer broadband internet globally, a US$10 billion (S$13.3 billion) investment it estimates could generate US$30 billion annually to help fund Mr Musk's interplanetary rocket programme, called Starship.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.