Despite some hiccups, the third Falcon 9 trip is a major milestone for SpaceX.
The rocket in Monday's launch was previously used for satellite launches in May and August of this year.
Today's mission, dubbed the SSO-A: SmallSat Express, included 15 "microsats" and 49 "cubesats". No SpaceX rocket has yet flown more than two missions. The 64 miniature satellites belong to companies, governments and research institutions in 17 different countries.
The Hawthorne-based SpaceX has worked for years to flawless the reuse of its rockets to slash the cost of space missions, landing the first stage of the rockets either back on land near the original launch site or on barges floating in the ocean.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 exclusively dedicated to small satellites launched December 3, at 1:34 p.m.
Fifteen minutes after launching, the Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship-completing the rocket booster's third launch and landing this year. The launch has been postponed three times - once to accommodate additional pre-flight inspections, another time due to weather, and on Sunday to "conduct additional inspections of the second stage, according to SpaceX".
Now, SpaceX and its workhorse vehicle is ready to set the record for most satellites launched by a single American rocket.
The latest SpaceX Falcon 9 launch had been scheduled for liftoff at 10:32 a.m. Sunday while carrying not one, not two, but 64 satellites on what was billed as a "ridesharing" mission.
When the Falcon 9 reached space today, its nose cone fell away, and the satellites began to emerge. Using a stack of payload dispensers split into upper and lower free-fliers, Spaceflight will deploy the satellites over the course of six hours.
Some of those smaller satellites aim to build an internet network capable of supporting smart devices back on Earth's surface.
Additional payloads range from the U.S. Air Force's STPSat-5 spacecraft to Orbital Reflector, a cubesat carrying an inflatable sculpture from the Nevada Museum of Art and artist Trevor Paglen that will remain in orbit, visible from the ground, for several weeks.