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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sends 88 small satellites into space with a big boom

Elon Musk's rocket company successfully sent dozens of satellites to space in one go with the Transporter-2 mission.


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry dozens of small satellites into orbit.

SpaceX/ US Space Force

A Falcon 9 rocket carried 88 small satellites into space on Wednesday, then made a rare and resounding landing on dry ground in Florida.

SpaceX launched its Transporter-2 rideshare mission from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station around 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET), and about eight minutes later the first-stage booster from the vehicle touched down not too far away at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone One.

Most SpaceX landings happen in the Atlantic Ocean aboard floating droneship platforms, but about once or twice a year the booster will return to land ashore.

Coming back to touch down on dry land near the populated Space Coast of Florida means many residents could hear and perhaps even feel the Falcon 9 first stage as it flirted with the sound barrier on its descent, producing multiple sonic booms.

This was the 20th Falcon 9 launch of 2021, putting the company well ahead of last year's pace. SpaceX launched 26 missions in all of 2020, which was its most prolific year so far.

The mission was originally set to launch on Tuesday, but got scrubbed with 11 seconds to go before liftoff due to an unauthorized plane wandering too close to the launch pad.

"Unfortunately, launch is called off for today, as an aircraft entered the "keep out zone," which is unreasonably gigantic," SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted minutes later.

Transporter-2 is the second launch from the company's SmallSat Rideshare Program, which is pretty much what it sounds like. The payload bay of the Falcon 9 was loaded with 85 small spacecraft from both commercial and government customers, along with three of SpaceX's own Starlink broadband satellites.

The booster that did the heavy lifting during the first few minutes of the mission completed its eighth flight and landing of its career.

You can rewatch the whole mission above.

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