CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched a new batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit on Wednesday afternoon (April 7) and landed at sea to complete a successful mission.
The veteran Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 40 here at the Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida at 12:34 pm ET (1634 GMT), marking the company’s 10th launch this year.
“Falcon 9 successfully launched from the Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral, bringing our Starlink satellite constellation into orbit,” said Jesse Anderson, SpaceX’s Process Engineer, during a live webcast of the launch.
Approximately nine minutes later, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth, landing on SpaceX’s Sure I Still Love You unmanned spacecraft for the seventh successful landing.
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SpaceX continues its meteoric launch pace set last year, as the Hawthorne, California-based rocket maker celebrated its 10th launch in 2021. Most of these launches were SpaceX’s own Starlink satellites as the company nears completion of its original project. Internet constellation of 1,440 broadband satellites.
Although this constellation could end up with tens of thousands of satellites, as SpaceX has permission to launch up to 30,000 satellites, and the ability to launch even more.
Forecasters from the 45th Space Wing Meteorological Squadron predicted favorable conditions at launch, and the weather did not disappoint. Today, when the Falcon 9 rocket took off into orbit, it was nothing more than blue skies over the cosmic coast.
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The launch vehicle for today’s launch, dubbed the B1058, is one of SpaceX’s flight-proven boosters. The veteran pilot now has seven launches and landings and is quickly becoming one of the leaders of the fleet.
B1058 debuted nearly a year ago when it was the first to display NASA’s iconic worm logo. “The worm is back,” said former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. tweeted at that time.
The iconic red worm logo was created in the 1970s and was in use for a while before the space agency relied solely on its other iconic symbol, NASA’s meatball.
While the meatball is still the main logo, NASA has decided to use the worm in its crewed missions. The once bright red font has become dark and smoky as a result of his many trips to and from space.
The B1058 was the first commercial rocket to carry astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This first historic flight, Crew Dragon Demo-2, launched from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center here in Florida on May 30, 2020, marked the first time astronauts have taken off from the United States since the end of the shuttle program in 2011.
The launch vehicle then took off for the second time in July 2020, delivering a communications satellite for the South Korean military into space.
The launch vehicle also delivered the first upgraded Dragon cargo capsule to the space station in December 2020 and made history again in January as the launch vehicle that will carry the most satellites into orbit on a single payload. Called Transporter-1, the joint mission launched a record 143 small satellites into space. (The previous record was set by the Indian Space Agency for the launch of 104 small satellites in 2017.)
These are the 113th flight of the Falcon 9 and the 59th flight of the refurbished booster. In fact, until now, every SpaceX launch in 2021 has been carried out on a flight-proven rocket.
The mission also marks SpaceX’s fifth successful landing in a row after the company lost one of six pilots on February 15, when the rocket lost an engine in flight and subsequently failed to land on a drone ship, resulting in the loss of more than two aircraft. a dozen catches.
SpaceX explained the anomaly by turning off one of the engines in flight. The first stage of the rocket is powered by nine Merlin 1D engines and is designed to carry out its mission even in the event of a premature shutdown of one of the engines.
Unfortunately, the rocket was unable to slow enough to land on the drone ship as expected. Company officials stressed that while the loss of a launch vehicle is regrettable, the main goal of every mission is to always safely deliver the payload to the intended orbit. Everything else is a bonus.
Nonetheless, having a fleet of in-flight-proven rockets at its disposal allows SpaceX to keep up with its rapid launch cadence.
With today’s success, SpaceX has launched a total of over 1,400 Starlink satellites into orbit, including some that are no longer operational. This almost fills the initial quota of the company as some of them are deorbited. And there are many more launches ahead as the company has requested approval for tens of thousands more.
SpaceX launched its massive internet constellation with one main goal: to connect the globe. To this end, the company’s engineers have designed a fleet of broadband flat panel satellites that will fly over the Earth, providing Internet access to users around the world, especially in rural and remote areas that would otherwise have no connectivity.
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Currently Starlink is still in beta testing and users in the US, Canada, UK, Germany and New Zealand can access the service. SpaceX is taking pre-orders in preparation for the full rollout of commercial services later this year. Potential users can start booking the service with a $ 99 deposit right now by registering on the company’s website.
SpaceX isn’t the only company looking to connect the globe. OneWeb, Amazon, and Telstar have their own plans. However, OneWeb is currently the only other service with real satellites in space.
The London-based company launched 36 of its satellites last month in the Russian Union, working to fill its planned constellation of 650 satellites. (To date, OneWeb has launched five of the planned 19 missions.)
Both halves of the fairing introduced in today’s mission have flown before, and with luck they will soon fly again.
That is, if they land in one piece. With the help of airborne parachutes, the clamshell-like hardware will be gently propelled into the Atlantic Ocean and hauled out of the water by SpaceX’s newest boat, a hot pink and blue vessel called the Shelia Bordelon.
In the second mission, Shelia Bordelon will use an onboard crane to lift the fairings. It is unclear if this boat will be a permanent member of the fleet or if it just helps for a short time.
SpaceX is officially phasing out its dual cowl catchers – GO Ms. Chief and GO Ms. Tree – and will rely on other rescue vessels to retrieve falling fairings in the future.
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