CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched a new batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit on Wednesday evening (April 28) 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 Force Station in Florida at 11:44 pm ET (0344, April 29 GMT), marking the company’s 10th launch this year.
“The first stage of Falcon 9 has landed for the seventh time,” SpaceX engineer Jesse Anderson said during the launch broadcast. “This marks the 81st orbital-grade missile detection operation.”
Approximately nine minutes later, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth, landing on SpaceX’s Just Read Instructions unmanned vehicle, making its seventh successful landing.
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The launch was marked in the third of the evening when Arianespace launched a Vega rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, about two hours earlier, at 9:50 pm ET (01:50 GMT on April 29). China then launched the main module of its next space station at 11:23 pm ET (0323 GMT on April 29), followed by SpaceX.
SpaceX continues the fast launch pace it set last year, as the Hawthorne, California-based rocket maker celebrated its 12th launch in 2021. Most of these launches were SpaceX’s own Starlink satellites, as the company surpasses its original internet constellation. 1440 broadband satellites.
Ultimately, this constellation could be made up of tens of thousands of satellites, since 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.
The Wednesday launch booster, called the B1060, is one of SpaceX’s field-proven boosters. The veteran pilot now has seven launches and landings as the company plans to push its Falcon 9 rockets to their limits.
The B1060 debuted in June 2020 when it delivered an upgraded GPS III satellite for the US Space Force into space. The mission was the first time the military gave SpaceX the green light to rebuild a launch vehicle. (Previously, all military missions were carried out on consumable rockets.)
Once the launch vehicle returned to Port, it was ready for its next mission: to deliver a stack of Starlink Internet satellites into space. Following successive Starlink missions, the veteran launch vehicle delivered a communications satellite to Turkey into space.
All of his subsequent missions contained the Starlink payload. Wednesday’s flight marks the fifth download of the broadband satellites that this particular booster has brought into space. SpaceX is using its previously launched boosters with the most miles to transport its own satellites into space.
These are the 115th general flight of the Falcon 9 and the 61st flight of a used refurbished booster. In fact, until now, every SpaceX launch in 2021 has been carried out on a flight-proven rocket.
When the redesigned Falcon 9 debuted in 2018, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk told reporters that the company expected each Falcon 9 to fly 10 times with minor repairs between flights and a whopping 100 before retirement.
The company learned a lot from the refurbishment process, and according to Musk, there is no hard limit on the number of flights any Falcon 9 can fly.
“You probably don’t want to be the life leader for a crewed mission, but it’s probably good to have one or two flights under your belt for the booster to fly once or twice,” he said during a post-launch. Media call after the flight of the cosmonaut “Crew-2” to the space station. “If it was a plane leaving the factory, you would like the plane to probably go through a test flight or two before you board the passengers.”
“So I think a couple of flights is probably a good number for a crew booster, but for now we will continue to fly with Life Leader,” Musk said. “We have nine flights on one of the accelerators. We will have our 10th Starlink flight soon. ”
Musk did indicate that the company will push the Falcons to their limits and continue to carry out Starlink missions until they break, which could well exceed the 10 previously predicted flights.
With a fleet of flight-tested rockets at its disposal, SpaceX can keep up with its launch speed. However, company officials stressed that while the loss of a launch vehicle is regrettable, the main goal of every mission is always to safely deliver the payload to the intended orbit. Everything else is a bonus.
Thanks to a successful launch on Wednesday, SpaceX has launched more than 1,500 Starlink satellites into orbit, including some that are no longer operational. This goes beyond the company’s initial quota, but there are still many launches ahead as the company has requested approval for tens of thousands more.
SpaceX launched its huge Internet network to bring Internet access to the entire world, especially in remote and rural areas. To this end, the company’s engineers have designed a fleet of flat panel broadband satellites that will fly over the Earth, providing Internet coverage to users who can access the service through a compact user terminal.
Currently Starlink is still in beta testing and users in the US, Canada, UK, Germany and New Zealand can access the service. The company is currently accepting pre-orders for the internet service, but plans a full rollout later this year. Potential users can go to the company’s website right now and reserve the service with a $ 99 deposit.
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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.)
There was a bit of a mess this month between SpaceX and OneWeb as OneWeb reported that one of its satellites had a “close call” with one of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Later filings with the FCC shed some light on the incident, showing that there was no potential collision and that the situation was exaggerated.
SpaceX recently signed an agreement with NASA to get its satellites out of the way if there is any close call with any of the agency’s satellites or the International Space Station. However, this only applies to NASA; there are currently no global or national regulations that would oblige one company to get its satellites out of the way of another organization.
In 2020, the space station had to adjust its orbit several times to avoid possible collisions with objects in orbit. Thus, the creation of this Space Act Agreement with SpaceX is a huge step towards reducing potential collisions.
Both halves of the fairing introduced in the medium mission are brand new, and with luck, will fly again soon.
That is, if they land in one piece. Thanks to on-board parachutes and navigation software, the clamshell-shaped apparatus glides back to Earth and gently splashes down into the Atlantic Ocean. From there, two parts of the fairing will pull SpaceX’s newest boat out of the water, a hot pink and blue vessel called the Shelia Bordelon.
This is Shelia Bordelon’s third mission to use an onboard crane to lift the fairings.
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