SpaceX launches biggest US 'rideshare' mission with 64 satellites

The mission comes days after India fired a rocket carrying 31 satellites into space.

SpaceX launches biggest US 'rideshare' mission with 64 satellites
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches carrying a Qatari communications satellite (Reuters photo)

Elon Musk`s SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from California on Monday carrying 64 small satellites into low orbit around the Earth, which the company called the largest-ever "rideshare" mission by a US-based rocket.

The mission, dubbed SSO-A, also marked the third voyage to space for the same Falcon 9 rocket - another milestone for SpaceX`s cost-cutting reusable rocket technology. 

The Falcon 9 blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10:34 a.m. local time (18:34 GMT) carrying satellites from 34 different companies, government agencies, and universities, including the University of Illinois.

SpaceX said the mission was "one of the most complex and intricate endeavours" for Seattle-based startup Spaceflight, the ride-share company that arranged passage for each satellite maker.

The mission comes days after India fired a rocket carrying 31 satellites into space.

After the launch, the Falcon 9`s first-stage booster returned to earth as planned, landing on a ship off the coast of southern California, according to a live video of the flight.

However, the Falcon 9`s payload fairing - an enclosure that protected the satellites during launch - missed a landing net on the barge and ended up in the ocean.

"Falcon fairing halves missed the net, but touched down softly in the water," Musk, SpaceX`s chief executive officer, said on Twitter. He said the boat was moving to pick them up.

"Plan is to dry them out & launch again. Nothing wrong with a little swim," Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla Inc , said on Twitter.

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