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SpaceX launches new missile reuse records with successful Starlink launch – Spaceflight Now

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is launched from Landing 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 8:02 a.m. EST (1302 GMT) on Wednesday. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites on Wednesday in sunny skies over the Florida space coast, adding more capacity and coverage to the company’s commercial broadband network while setting new records for the pace at which it reuses Falcon 9 rocket boosters.

The two-stage launcher fired its nine main Merlin 1D engines and ascended from 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 8:02 a.m. EST (1302 GMT) on Wednesday. The missile’s guidance system steered the 70-meter-high launch vehicle to the northeast of the Atlantic Ocean in a trajectory to place Starlink’s 60 relay stations in orbit between 53 degrees north and south latitude.

The first stage amplifier – designated the B1051 – made its eighth space trip and back on a mission on Wednesday, making it the leader of the SpaceX fleet. The first stage shut down and separated from the second stage of the Falcon 9 about two and a half minutes in flight, extended the aerodynamic grilles of the grille and briefly twisted into space before re-entering the atmosphere and driving a propulsion landing craft. SpaceX in the Atlantic Ocean.

Enjoying the strong wind, the 15-story rocket descended to the landing platform or drone, extended its four-legged wheeled system and fired its central engine in a final braking maneuver just before touching. The landing winds were stronger than previous rocket landings, but SpaceX chose to continue the mission in hopes of gathering data on the booster’s ability to land in less than ideal conditions, according to Jessica Anderson, a SpaceX engineer who hosted the spacecraft. the company’s website to launch on Wednesday.

The video from the drone’s ship was dropped when the rocket landed about eight minutes after takeoff, but the live video quickly resumed, showing the charred, soot-covered amplifier on the landing platform.

“We landed Falcon 9 for the eighth time,” Anderson said. “This is our leader in life. What an amazing morning! ”

Wednesday’s launch booster took off for the first time with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission in March 2019, when the manned spacecraft took off on an unmanned test flight to the International Space Station, paving the way for astronauts’ missions in 2020.

The first phase started again from California in June 2019, carrying the three Canadian remote sensing satellites Radarsat Constellation Mission, and then flew on four Starlink missions from Cape Canaveral. Most recently, the booster launched on December 13 with the SXM 7 broadcast satellite for SiriusXM.

The launch of the SXM 7 came 38 days before the mission on Wednesday, marking the fastest turnaround between flights since SpaceX began reusing Falcon 9 boosters in 2017.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, said the latest version of the Falcon 9 amp – called Block 5 – can fly 10 times without the need for significant upgrades and perhaps 100 times with periodic repairs. With 48 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy flights planned for 2021, SpaceX seems poised to have at least one Falcon booster, and perhaps more, to reach the milestone of 10 flights this year.

The two halves of the Falcon 9’s payload fairing have also been recycled from previous missions. Two SpaceX fairing recovery ships, each equipped with giant nets to capture fairing shells when parachuted, were at the station on Atlantic Wednesday to retrieve the components.

The payload fairing was ejected moments after the second stage of the Falcon 9 engine ignited, when the rocket rose above the atmosphere, revealing a stack of 60 Starlink satellites mounted to the front end of the rocket.

The Falcon 9 rocket, flying with the first stage completed in seven previous missions, rises through the atmosphere on Wednesday over the Florida space coast. Credit: SpaceX

After reaching pre-park orbit, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 skipped halfway around the world, crossing the Atlantic, Europe and the Middle East before recharging its engine over the Indian Ocean to put Starlink payloads in the correct deployment orbit.

The 60 satellites released from the rocket after just over an hour of mission. An on-board camera showed flat satellites built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, taking off from the second phase of the Falcon 9.

With 60 new satellites, SpaceX has launched 1,015 Starlink spacecraft into orbit so far, including prototypes not intended for commercial service. The new satellites will give SpaceX a fleet of about 950 star orbits that are currently in orbit after removing satellites that have been deorbed, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics that tracks global space activity.

These are more satellites than any other company or government entity.

The fresh satellites will deploy solar panels, go through automated crates and activate krypton ion engines to start raising their orbits to join the rest of the constellation Starlink at an altitude of 550 kilometers.

SpaceX plans to operate an initial unit of about 1,500 Starlink satellites. 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.

SpaceX says the Starlink network – designed for a low-latency Internet service – has entered beta testing in many states in the United States and Canada, using its satellites. Testing has recently expanded to the United Kingdom, SpaceX reported on Wednesday, and the U.S. military is also testing the Starlink Internet service.

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.

Wednesday’s mission was the second launch of SpaceX of the year. Two more Falcon 9 flights are scheduled before the end of January.

The Falcon 9 rocket is set to take off from Site 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force during a one-hour window opening at 9:24 a.m. EST (1424 GMT) on Friday, carrying more than 100 small satellites for the U.S. government commercial operators, and foreign customers.

The rideshare mission will deliver satellites in a polar orbit synchronous with the sun more than 300 miles or 500 kilometers above the Earth. This will be SpaceX’s second launch from Cape Canaveral to head into polar orbit using a launch corridor to the south, dotted with a Falcon 9 flight in August with Argentina’s SAOCOM 1B satellite radar.

Another Falcon 9 mission is expected to take off from Florida’s spaceport on the morning of Jan. 27 with another batch of about 60 Starlink satellites, according to a publicly available danger zone notice outlining exit areas.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.

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