SpaceX launches another 60 Starlink satellites on 100th Falcon Flight 9 – Spaceflight Now

On Tuesday night, the Falcon 9 missile will descend from Bench 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: SpaceX

The 100th flight of the Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 satellites into the SpaceX Starlink network on Tuesday night and added another building block to the planned fleet of thousands of solar-based space stations to broadcast broadband worldwide.

The successful mission late Tuesday also set a new record in the SpaceX rocket reuse program – which could be decided again in months if SpaceX maintains its feverish launch pace. First, a reusable Falcon 9 reminder completed its seventh space and return journey on Tuesday night’s flight.

The Falcon 9 rocket fired nine kerosene-powered Merlin 1D engines and roared from Bench 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday night at 9:13:12 (EST), Wednesday (GMT). The 229-foot-high (70-meter) launch vehicle drove over a broken cloud layer over the bench and headed northeast from Cape Canaveral to line up with the mission’s targeted orbital plane within the Starlink network.

The rocket’s 15-story first-stage amp fell off the top of the Falcon 9 about two and a half years after takeoff, giving direction to SpaceX’s “I still love you” drone ship, which is hundreds of miles away. northeast of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean,

The reminder, designated B1049 in the SpaceX missile kit, redefined its center engine for a brake maneuver just before grounding and then extended the landing gear before settling aboard the drone ship. The seemingly flawless landing interrupted the B1049’s seventh mission, making SpaceX the “fleet manager”.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, said the latest version of the Falcon 9 reminder could fly 10 times without major upgrades, and maybe 100 times with periodic upgrades.

Along with the recycled first-stage reminder, the Falcon started with 9 recycled shell-like payloads, half of which flew on two previous missions. The other half of the cruise was a veteran before departure.

Two recovery ships were sent to sea to retrieve half of Tuesday night’s mission after being parachuted into space by parachute from space.

While the reminder and protective shells descended back to Earth, the upper section of the Falcon 9 steered the 60 flat-screen Starlink satellites toward the Equator in a 53-degree oblique transmission orbit. About 15 minutes after takeoff, the upper section released the locking bars to allow cargo of 60 spacecraft to fly freely from the missile over the North Atlantic.

Falcon 9 was designed to place satellites in an elliptical orbit between 212 kilometers (213) and 227 miles (366 kilometers). A member of the SpaceX launch team confirmed on a mission audio loop that the missile had reached its target orbit.

The launch was previously scheduled for Saturday night and then slipped to Sunday when SpaceX stopped the launch attempt due to concerns about “mission insurance”. SpaceX bypassed the launch opportunity on Monday due to forecast of bad conditions in the Falcon 9 reminder offshore landing zone, paving the way for Tuesday’s countdown.

Tuesday’s launch was the 23rd SpaceX mission in 2020, prolonging the company’s flight record growth. The record to date for most SpaceX launches in a year was 21 missions in 2018.

The exhaust pipes of nine Merlin 1D main engines were evident when the Falcon 9 rocket soared through clouds over Cape Canaveral on Tuesday night. Credit: Stephen Clark / spaceflight now

The quarter-ton Starlink satellites, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, are expected to expand the power-generating solar rays and charge their krypton ion engines to begin raising their orbits to an operating altitude of 341 miles (550 kilometers) where they connect to more than 800 other Starlink relay stations to wind up. in much of the inhabited world.

With Sunday’s launch, the SpaceX 955 launched a Starlink satellite.

SpaceX plans to operate an initial block of about 1,500 Starlink satellites on orbits around 341 miles above Earth. The company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has official approval from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually set up a fleet of up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations in the Ku-band, Ka-band and V-band.

There are preliminary plans for an even larger fleet of 30,000 additional Starlink satellites, but a network of this size is not allowed by the FCC.

SpaceX said the Starlink network, designed for low-latency Internet service, has entered a beta testing phase in several U.S. states and Canada.

“Last month, SpaceX launched a‘ Beta Than Nothing Beta ’test program,” the company said in a post on its website. “We have sent service invitations to parts who have requested contact updates on and who live in serviceable areas. A few weeks ago, Canada granted Starlink’s official approval, and last week, SpaceX introduced the service to parts of southern Canada. “

The “invite-only” beta testing program focuses on testing Starlink’s connection in rural and remote areas in the northern U.S. and southern Canada, said Spaceate engineer Kate Tice, who hosted the company’s Tuesday night webcast.

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations, and improve our network software, data speed, latency, and uptime will improve dramatically,” Tice said.

SpaceX will reduce the latency within the Starlink network to 16 to 19 milliseconds by mid-2019, Tice said.

“At our current pace, we expect to significantly expand our beta early next year, late January-February,” he said.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.