SpaceX breaks the recycling and carpooling-release records

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SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket on Monday, carrying 3,000 kilos of payload. Two minutes and thirty minutes after takeoff, the second floor separated from the rocket body (its main stage) to continue its journey to space and drop its satellites. The main floor has descended into the atmosphere controlling its run to land like a flower on a barge at sea, ready to be recovered and reused for a new take-off. But all this is an almost staggering routine for SpaceX, which will hardly miss any recovery in two years.

Falcon take-off December 9, 2018, with a propeller used for the third time.

The remarkable novelty of this launch was that the main stage in question was not on its first flight, or even on its second: it was the third time that the engine "B1046" left the cows floor to return eight minutes later. The US private operator took another step in space recycling. Its stated goal is to be able to launch, retrieve and re-launch a single propeller within 24 hours within the next year.

No less than 64 satellites were installed in the missile hood, none of which was the main charge: a real mass of carpool! And the first of this in the United States … In this space bus nicknamed "SmallSat Express" by its organizer Spaceflight Industries, there were 15 micro-satellites, small machines up to 150 kilos and 49 CubeSat, nano-satellites less than 10 pounds inexpensive to produce for projects from seventeen different countries, private and public, commercial and scientific, sometimes academic and even a work of art.

One of the CubeSat should inflate a reflective balloon, which will shine like a big star in the night sky for several weeks (see our September 16 article), as "Provocation" in an increasingly militarized space. The Berlin artist Trevor Paglen confirmed that its satellite is operational, and its follow-up will be available in the next days on Orbitalreflector.com.

Reflective balloon design for the Orbital Reflector project.

Camille Gévaudan

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