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The current answer to the question Highest number of satellites launched on a single rocket is 104, on ISRO's PSLV-C37. One of the runner-ups is KANOPUS-V-IK with about 73 satellites. The trick is to land an order from Planet Laps for a flock of doves. The Doves should be considered mostly identical here, and would count as one satellite design.

edit: So far there are no answers, so I'll make another adjustment. The whole concept of the cubesat standard is that they should all deploy the same. A cubesat "dispenser" should not care who's cube it is or how it was designed internally. Therefore:

1U, 2U, 3U, 6U, etc. Each cubesat size counts as one design for the purposes of this question. I'm trying to get a handle on the variety of satellite shapes and sizes that a single rocket must handle.


below: Cropped from Spaceflight Now's Soyuz rolled out for launch of multinational satellite cluster Some of the 73 satellites slated to launch on a Russian Soyuz rocket Friday are pictured before encapsulation inside the launcher’s payload fairing at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Glavkosmos

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Each satellite should be able to communicate with ground stations on its own? No passive satellites without electronics? $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 2 '17 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe let's say that anything that was a payload, delivered to orbit, with it's own NORAD ID. That would be easier than trying to verify the communications capability of each payload of each launch. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 3 '17 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ Note, I think the satcat and TLEs for all the KANOPUS payloads have probably settled down and payloads identified. I'll try to compile a list of payload names for both PSLV-C37 and KANOPUS-V-IK if nobody else does, and then post it as an answer; again, if nobody else posts what now seems like an easy answer first. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 24 '17 at 17:46
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It's hard to prove but I'm reasonably sure that the SpaceX Transporter-1 mission holds the record for "most distinct satellite shapes in a single launch" in addition to the "most satellites in a single launch" record. Here's a breakdown of the satellite shapes extracted from this list:

Cubesats

  • 0.25U - 36
  • 0.5U - 1
  • 1.5U - 1
  • 1U - 4
  • 2U - 2
  • 3U - 68 (*)
  • 6U - 13
  • 12U - 2 (*)

Other Satellites/payloads

  • 10x Starlink
  • Capella 3 & 4
  • GHGSat-C2 / Hugo (GHGSAT)
  • ICEYE 3x
  • Sherpa-FX1
  • HawkEye 2A, 2B, 2C (Hawkeye Cluster 2) (microsats)
  • Celestis 17
  • TAGSAT-1 / EyeStar-Tag
  • iQPS-SAR 2
  • ION SCV Laurentius
  • GNOMES-2 (*)
  • Landmapper-Demo6 & -Demo7 (*)

Now, counting these all together gives ~20 distinct satellite shapes, a large portion of which are composed by the sheer size variety in cubesats. Unfortunately though, it's difficult to get an exact manifest of everything that actually ended up launching due to the nature of how many customers were on this flight. Furthermore, defining what exactly counts as a satellite is a bit tricky as multiple payloads were designed to split or were free-flying launch dispensers for smaller satellites. Items marked by a (*) indicate that they may not have launched, but even without them, the number of distinct satellites is still in the high teens range.

For comparison, the PSLV-C37 launch that previously held the record carried 104 satellites, of which 1 was larger, 88 were doves, and 8 LEMUR satellites. Even if all the remaining satellites were distinct unique shapes, it would be still only have carried 10 types of satellites.

Finally, the the Kanopus-V-IK mission consisted of the Kanopus-V-IK, Flying Laptop, WNISAT-1R, NORSat-1, TechnoSat, and NORSat-2 along with 7 6U cubesats, 59 3U cubesats, and one 1U cubesat. That's only 9 shapes.

Overall, I find it likely that Transporter-1 mission holds the record for this with somewhere between 17 and 20 distinct satellite shapes however the number is rather low and could be beaten by launches in a pre-cubesat era (eg a shuttle launch) because the cubesat system is quite new in the history of spaceflight (invented in 1999).


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  • $\begingroup$ This is excellent (and fast) work, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 3 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ The Space Shuttle's record is four different satellite types on three occasions: STS 51-G (three communications satellites of different designs, plus a free-floating experiment platform), STS 51-A (two communications satellites of different designs, plus two free-flying astronauts), and STS 41-C (capture and re-deploy of Solar Max, deploy of the LDEF, and two free-flying astronauts). $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Feb 9 at 2:08

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