Exciting times here at Planet Labs! Today at 1:47 a.m. PST, SpaceX launched 2 Dove satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40. The Doves, along with 5,000 pounds of supplies, are on the way to the International Space Station (ISS). A few weeks after they arrive at the Space Station the satellites will be released into free flight from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer.
These Doves, known as Flock 1d Prime, are special to Planet Labs because their completion and launch required incredible commitment and ingenuity from our team. Remarkably, we squeezed 14 tech demos into 2 satellites, in just 9 days. The new satellites replicate hardware improvements and experiments from the flock of 26 Doves destroyed during the October failure of an Antares rocket. This demonstrates in near-real time what we mean when we say ‘agile aerospace.’
This flock (carried by a Dragon cargo spacecraft) is scheduled to arrive at the ISS in two days. They’re nestled alongside 17 student experiments which were also quickly rebuilt after the loss of Antares.
Another test was of the Falcon 9 rocket itself—SpaceX designed the first stage to be reusable. Instead of crashing back to Earth, the stage re-fired its rockets after separation, and landed, though a hard landing, on a 300-foot-long, 170-foot-wide (91-by-52-meter) “autonomous spaceport drone ship” in the Atlantic Ocean.
Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 10, 2015
Performing this maneuver is early evidence that spacecraft can be reusable and will reduce the cost of future launches. Congratulations to SpaceX for attempting this unprecedented maneuver, and thanks for successfully delivering our Doves to orbit.