Starfish Space’s docking spacecraft gets a big sendoff

A well-traveled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket today launched dozens of satellites, including an experimental docking craft created by a Seattle-area startup called Starfish Space.

Starfish Space’s Otter Pup spacecraft was one of 72 payloads that were deployed into low Earth orbit after the launch of SpaceX’s Transporter-8 satellite rideshare mission from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Liftoff came at 2:35 p.m. PT, just hours after SpaceX launched 52 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Minutes after the California launch, the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster flew itself back to a landing pad not far from the launch site, marking the ninth successful launch and recovery for that booster. It was the 200th successful recovery of a Falcon 9 booster.

Meanwhile, the rocket’s second stage reached orbit and executed a meticulously choreographed series of deployments that ended nearly an hour and a half after launch. The long list of payloads included small satellites and a re-entry vehicle, as well as an orbital transfer vehicle that carried its own complement of spacecraft.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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