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Watch SpaceX launch its biggest crop of satellites yet with a twice-used rocket

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A single Falcon 9 rocket is about to fly for the third time

12月3日更新,2:50PM ET:After launching from California this afternoon,SpaceX的猎鹰9号火箭成功地将所有65颗卫星送入轨道。火箭的第一级也成功地降落在太平洋的一艘无人机上,使它成为第一艘发射和降落三次的猎鹰9号。Today's mission marked SpaceX's 19th mission of the year — the most the company has ever done in a year,打破了去年18次飞行的记录。

原创故事:On Monday,SpaceX将使用猎鹰9号火箭从南加州发射64颗小型卫星,该公司此前已经发射过两次。这是航天X在许多方面的开创性发射。这不仅是该公司第一次第三次试飞火箭,但这将是有史以来从美国本土起飞的最大一批航天器。

巨大的份额was coordinated by Spaceflight Industries,为卫星运营商提供火箭服务的经纪公司。Typically,太空飞行将有助于小卫星进入轨道,在已经发射一颗大卫星到太空的飞行器上找到额外的空间。但这次太空X的发射,,known as the SSO-A mission,在2015年的那次太空飞行中是独一无二的。And since then,太空飞行已经用35家公司的小型卫星填满了它,研究机构,schools,and artists from all over the world.

"通常,我们收购过剩产能,这就是我们如何满足小型线上金莎平台卫星客户的需求,"Curt Blake,CEO of Spaceflight's launch services group,tells科技博客."And basically we had to go to a model where we're buying an entire launch vehicle in order to satisfy that demand."Originally,计划发射71颗卫星,但一些运营商在发射前没有及时做好准备。

这不是第一次大量的小型卫星同时发射。In February 2017,一枚印度PSLV火箭将创纪录的104颗卫星送入轨道,and these huge ride-shares have become more common in recent years.But pulling off a mission of this kind is a big undertaking,requiring a lot of coordination with all of the operators involved."The whole thing is super,super well-planned,你可以想象,"布莱克说。"Doing anything with that many different satellites and that many different procedures,to make sure it all comes together correctly — you really have to make sure you know when all the different pieces are coming together.""

An infographic of the SSO-A customer breakdown.
图片:航天工业

At the heart of the Spaceflight mission is what is known as the payload stack,它是一个大型装置,在飞行中容纳所有卫星,然后将它们部署到太空中。The SSO-A stack stands at about 20 feet tall and is more than 10 feet wide.Spaceflight says it's been working on this stack for about two years now,tailoring it to all of the customers' needs.主要的优先事项是,每颗卫星在正确的时间从烟囱里出来,这样它们就可以到达预定的轨道,而不会在太空中互相碰撞。"很多卫星都是按照我们已经进行了数百次模拟的方式排列的,为了确保我们发射所有这些不同的卫星时没有再联系,"布莱克说。

一些人担心一旦这些卫星从火箭上发射出来就能够跟踪它们。T.S.Kelsomanager of a satellite-tracking website called Celestrak,has argued that Spaceflight has not provided adequate information about the deployment sequence,which may make it hard to identify which satellite is which.线上金莎平台然而,航天说,它一直在与联合空间作战中心(CSPOC)合作,which is responsible for tracking satellites for the US military.Over the last nine months,航天说,它已经与客户和CSPOC进行了协调,以提供有关每次部署时间的数据。

"Spaceflight is a strong proponent of being stewards of space and operating responsibly,"a spokesperson for Spaceflight said in a statement."我们进行了无数次模拟和测试,尽我们所能成功地将有效载荷送入轨道。Once payloads have been deployed,操作员有责任联系和跟踪卫星。”"

The payloads heading into orbit on this flight are all pretty unique.一颗卫星将观察海洋的颜色,以确定地球水域的健康状况,while another will send algae into space to see what the space environment does to these organisms.另外,有一些艺术项目。洛杉矶县艺术博物馆正在为宇航员罗伯特·亨利·劳伦斯(RobertHenryLawrence Jr.)送去一座24克拉的金像。最值得注意的是,American artist Trevor Paglen will be发动他的Orbital Reflectorproject— a satellite that will deploy a reflective balloon about the length of two school buses in space.据说气球会反射阳光,appearing as a bright point moving across the sky at night.这是一个与许多天文学家不太相符的项目,who are worried about too many bright objectsmucking up their observations of the night sky.

至于太空旅行,SpaceX目前正在使用其最常用的火箭。该公司正在征募一枚猎鹰9号火箭,该火箭于5月首次飞行,8月第二次飞行。After each launch,火箭降落在宇宙飞船的一艘无人机上,使它能够再次飞上太空。This rocket will be the first one SpaceX has ever flown for a third time.It's a feat made possible now that SpaceX is flying the final upgrade of its Falcon 9 fleet,what's known as the Block 5.This version of the vehicle has been tailor-made for reusability,making it easier to land and then reuse the rocket once its mission is complete.

The Falcon 9 launching for SSO-A most recently launched the Merah Putih mission in August.
Image: SpaceX

SpaceX plans to land the rocket again after this mission on another drone ship,so it's possible this vehicle could fly for a fourth time.SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claims each Block 5 vehicle应该能飞10次with minimal refurbishment needed between launches.

花了一段时间才让SSO-A任务离开地面,as SpaceX has had to reschedule it multiple times for weather and to run extra checks on the rocket.星期日,SpaceXdelayed the launch once again,因为需要进行额外的检查,计划周一发射,December 3rd,美国东部时间下午1:32从加州范登堡空军基地起飞。SpaceX's coverage of the event will start about 15 minutes prior to liftoff.

Update December 2,2018 at 9:03AM ET: Updated with new launch date.