Launching through a blanket of low-hanging clouds and light fog, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded in the sky over the Florida space coast in early Thursday and delivered another 60 Starlink Internet satellites into orbit. The first stage of the rocket touched SpaceX’s floating landing platform in the Atlantic Ocean to complete its eighth space trip and back.
The 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket lit up and took off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 3:24:54 EST (0824: 54 GMT). Fifteen seconds later, the liquid-fueled launch vehicle disappeared into a cloudy deck above the marine spaceport, leaving behind an orange stream that was slowly fading from the roar of the Falcon 9’s powerful main engines.
Turning northeast, the Falcon 9 exceeds the speed of sound and releases its first booster about two and a half minutes after takeoff. A single Merlin engine on the upper stage caught fire to continue its flight into space, while the first stage descended to the propulsion landing of the drone ship “Of course I still love you”, located about 400 miles (630 km) down from Cape Canaveral.
The successful landing marked the 75th intact recovery of the Falcon rocket booster from December 2015. The booster on Thursday, designated B1049 – made the eighth launch and landing since its debut in September 2018, tying another first stage for the most flights in SpaceX fleet.
The Falcon 9 booster failed to land the drone in a previous SpaceX launch on February 15 after one of its nine main engines stopped prematurely during the ascent.
After reaching a pre-parking orbit, the upper stage skipped half the world before firing again to burn its orbit adjustment burner over the Indian Ocean for a second. The 60 Starlink satellites were located from the upper stage of Falcon 9 at 4:29 a.m. EST (0929 GMT) as they flew 172 miles (278 kilometers) above Earth just south of New Zealand.
The launch of the target came after a series of delays that had sustained the mission on Earth since late January. The delays were caused by weather and unspecified technical problems, and two other Falcon 9 missions with Starlink satellites took off from nearby Landing 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Station, while Flight 39A remained on the ground.
The change in the order of missions means that the batch, released on Thursday, was on the 20th flight of Falcon 9, dedicated to the carrying of Starlink satellites, despite its designation in the operational range in the eastern range as Starlink V1.0-L17. Starts No. 18 and 19 eventually flew before No. 17.
Release of the Falcon 9 rocket with another 60 satellites for the SpaceX Starlink network.
The launch vehicle quickly disappeared into the clouds over Florida’s space coast. Http://t.co/UCwNCJyyHk pic.twitter.com/qjFGJRzVWH
– Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) March 4, 2021
The 60 Starlink satellites, each weighing about a quarter of a ton, will deploy their solar panels and include ionic krypton boosters to begin rising to 550 kilometers in the coming weeks. At this altitude, the satellites will join more than 1,000 active Starlink satellites flying in orbits inclined to 53 degrees from the equator, taking them over almost every populated region in the world.
So far, SpaceX has launched 1,205 Starlink satellites, with 60 relay stations delivered into orbit on Thursday. But 63 of the star links have been deliberately deorbed or re-entered the atmosphere after a failure, and another 20 are not maneuvering or appear to be in the process of being deorbed, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and respected space flight tracker, according to Starlink satellites.
SpaceX is about to complete the deployment of its initial tranche of 1,584 Starlink stations – including spare parts – later this year. SpaceX will not stop there with plans to launch additional orbital “shells” of Starlink satellites into polar orbit to allow global coverage, with a first-generation fleet totaling about 4,400 spacecraft.
The Federal Communications Commission has allowed SpaceX to operate up to 12,000 Starlink satellites.
The company already provides an intermediate level of service to parts of the Earth, such as Canada, the northern United States and the United Kingdom. Beta testing of Starlink services is already underway with users in these regions. SpaceX also accepts pre-orders from Starlink users, who can pay $ 99 to reserve their place in the queue to receive the Starlink service when it becomes available in their area. For people in the southern United States and other regions with lower latitudes, this should come in late 2021, says SpaceX.
Once confirmed, customers will pay $ 499 for a Starlink antenna and modem, plus $ 50 for shipping and processing, says SpaceX. The subscription will run $ 99 per month.
“Starlink continues to improve as SpaceX uses additional infrastructure and capabilities, an average of two Starlink launches per month, to add significant capacity in orbit along with activating additional gateways to improve performance and expand service coverage areas. across the country, “SpaceX wrote in the submission.
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, wrote on Twitter on February 9 that the subsidiary of SpaceX Starlink will become public once there is a predicted cash flow.
“Once we can forecast cash flow relatively well, Starlink will be publicly available,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
Until then, SpaceX will spend money at high speed to keep the Starlink network up and running, from medium-speed satellite launches every few weeks to the production of consumer terrestrial terminals. SpaceX said the entire project could cost more than $ 10 billion, but Musk said the revenue opportunities are even greater, providing resources for SpaceX to achieve its bold plans to send people to Mars.
A key element of SpaceX’s plans for Mars is the next-generation fully usable rocket, called the Starship, which the company says will eventually replace the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft.
The Falcon 9 was launched less than half a day early Thursday after a test flight of a Starship prototype from the SpaceX development facility in South Texas. The Starship test vehicle made a controlled landing, first for Starship, descending from a great height, and a big step forward for the missile program.
But the prototype exploded a few minutes later, scattering debris on the landing site on the Gulf of Texas. However, SpaceX declared the test successful.
Sixty more Starlink Internet satellites are in orbit.
60 quarter-ton satellites deployed by a Falcon 9 rocket as they flew 272 kilometers above Earth south of New Zealand.
This brings the total number of Starlinks launched to 1,205. Https://t.co/UCwNCJyyHk pic.twitter.com/HmxMe27N5b
– Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) March 4, 2021
The full schedule for the launch of SpaceX continues with the next Falcon 9 mission, which will be detonated on Sunday night from site 40 of the Cape Canaveral space station with another 60 Starlink satellites. This flight is scheduled for 10:41 p.m. EST Sunday (0341 GMT Monday), followed by more launches of the Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites in the coming weeks.
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