And we have lift off! Today at 4:10pm EDT, fourteen Dove satellites (Flock 1e) were launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. This unmanned mission, dubbed CRS-6, will ferry essential supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Our satellites are currently resting in the Dragon Capsule’s pressurized cargo space as secondary payload.
Once the Dragon Capsule docks with the ISS, the satellites will be unloaded, remaining snug in their Nanoracks deployers. In a handful of weeks, they’ll be deployed two-by-two into low Earth orbit (LEO).
The Planet Labs team cheers as the Falcon 9’s stage one booster successfully detaches
Another key aspect of CRS-6, was the stage one recovery attempt. Minutes into the launch, the Falcon 9 stage one booster detached, falling back to Earth, where it was scheduled to make a precision landing on a drone platform floating in the Atlantic.
Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing pic.twitter.com/eJWzN6KSJa
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015
While this attempt won’t be deemed a total success, it eclipses January’s attempt, which ended in flames. As SpaceX closes in on full stage one recovery, the future of affordable spaceflight brightens.
In just under two years, we’ve launched 12 satellite iterations (113 Doves total) across ten launches. As our constellation grows (and Dove capabilities increase), we’re inching closer to daily imaging of our dynamic planet.