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SpaceX goes for a new rocket reuse record at the launch of the 100th Falcon 9 – Spaceflight Now

A Falcon 9 rocket launches its engines in Cape Canaveral on Sunday in preparation for launch with another 60 Starlink satellites. Credit: Stephen Clark / Space Flight Now

Sixty more Starlink Internet satellites are ready for launch into orbit on Sunday night from Cape Canaveral on the 100th flight of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and the seventh flight of the SpaceX “Fleet Leader” multiple amplifier.

The Falcon 9 missile is scheduled to be launched at 21:56:21 EST on Sunday (0256: 21 GMT, Monday) from Air Force Landing 40 at Cape Canaveral. The mission will be detonated less than 34 hours after the previous SpaceX flight, the launch of the Falcon 9 from California, which launched an oceanographic satellite designed to measure sea level rise.

The launch of the Falcon 9 with the Sentinel-6 oceanography satellite Michael Freilich on Saturday was SpaceX’s 22nd mission in 2020, breaking the company’s record for most launches in a calendar year. Sunday’s flight will extend the record.

While the launch of the Falcon 9 from California flew with a factory fresh booster from the first stage, the launch of the SpaceX from Florida on Sunday night will use a booster that has flown six times before. The rocket’s seventh flight will set a new record for SpaceX’s rocket reuse program, breaking the mark set by the same booster on its sixth mission in August.

The rocket installation, launched on Sunday – known as B1049 – debuted in September 2018 with the launch of the geostationary communications satellite Telstar 18 VANTAGE from Cape Canaveral. It was restarted from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January 2019 with 10 Iridium voice and data satellites.

The booster flew again in May 2019 with the first set of 60 SpaceX Internet Star satellites, followed by three more Starlink missions on January 6, June 3 and August 18.

“This launch will make him the leader of the fleet,” SpaceX tweeted the booster on Saturday.

There is a 60 percent chance of a favorable weather on Cape Canaveral for launch on Sunday night, according to the 45th Meteorological Squadron of the US Space Force. The main concerns about the weather are cumulus clouds and disturbed weather due to scattered rains along the Florida Coast.

SpaceX fired the nine Merlin 1D engines at the rocket at 16:00 EST (2100 GMT) on Saturday. The engines ignited for a few seconds as the retaining brackets held the rocket firmly on pad 40, sending a quiet noise through the Cape Canaveral spaceport.

The launch team had originally planned to launch the rocket early Friday before a potential launch attempt on Saturday night, but SpaceX interrupted the test in the final moments before firing. After draining the propellant from the rocket, SpaceX filled the Falcon 9 during a training countdown on Saturday afternoon, culminating in a successful test shootout at 4 p.m.

SpaceX will refuel kerosene and liquid oxygen in the rocket on Sunday night, starting at 9:21 p.m. EST (0221 GMT). Automated countdown will continue by refueling, final checking the steering system and pressure before issuing the ignition command to the nine Merlin 1D engines at T-minus 3 seconds.

Restrictions will open to allow the 229-meter (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket to climb away from pad 40 with 1.7 million pounds of thrust from its main Merlin engines.

Heading northeast of Cape Canaveral, the booster of the first stage of the rocket will be separated in about two and a half minutes on the mission, heading for the landing of the SpaceX drone “Of course I still love you” at about 650 miles ) northeast of the start site.

The booster should land on the floating platform at T + plus 8 minutes, 44 seconds, moments before turning off the Falcon 9 engine from the upper stage. The upper stage will deploy 60 flat Starlink satellites on T + plus 14 minutes, 44 seconds, according to the mission’s timetable published by SpaceX.

The rocket will aim to place the satellites in an elliptical orbit measuring between 213 kilometers and 367 kilometers with an inclination of 53 degrees to the equator.

Quarter-tone satellites built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, are expected to deploy power-generating solar arrays and power krypton ion pushers to begin orbiting to an operating altitude of 550 kilometers, where more than 800 stations will join. of Starlink for broadband internet transmission in most of the world’s population.

With the launch on Sunday, SpaceX will place 955 Starlink satellites in orbit from May 2019.

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

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

SpaceX says the Starlink network – designed for a low-latency Internet service – has entered beta testing in many states and Canada.

“Last month, SpaceX launched its Better Than Nothing Beta test program,” the company said in a statement on its website. “Service invitations have been sent to some of those who requested Starlink.com availability updates and who live in service areas. A few weeks ago, Canada gave approval from the Starlink regulator, and last week SpaceX introduced the service in parts of southern Canada. “

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.

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