SpaceX launches more Starlink satellites in afternoon launch from California – Spaceflight Now


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars downrange from Vandenberg Space Force Base on the Starlink 3-3 mission. Credit: William G. Hartenstein

SpaceX launched 46 extra Starlink web satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket Friday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, including extra broadband relay platforms to the polar-orbiting section of the community.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg at 2:40:20 p.m. PDT (5:40:20 p.m. EDT; 2140:20 GMT) with the 46 Starlink satellites flat-packed contained in the launcher’s payload shroud.

The two-stage, liquid-fueled launcher headed south from Vandenberg, a army spaceport about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles, concentrating on an orbital altitude between 191 miles and 199 miles (308-by-321 kilometers) at an inclination of 97.6 levels to the equator.

Soaring by a sunny sky over California’s Central Coast, the Falcon 9 surpassed the velocity of sound in about one minute, powered by 9 Merlin 1D engines consuming a mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants. The 9 engines produced about 1.7 million kilos of thrust at full throttle.

The rocket fired its first stage engines for two-and-a-half minutes to propel the stack of Starlink satellites towards house. A single Merlin engine on the Falcon 9’s higher stage then took over the flight to inject the payloads into orbit as the primary stage descended towards SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” positioned just a few hundred miles downrange within the Pacific Ocean.

The 15-story-tall booster used chilly gasoline thrusters and titanium grid fins to manage its hypersonic re-entry into the ambiance. Four touchdown legs prolonged from the bottom of the rocket because the booster’s middle engine carried out the ultimate braking maneuver for the vertical landing on the restoration vessel about eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.

A view of the stack of 46 Starlink satellites on the Falcon 9 rocket shortly after payload fairing separation. Credit: SpaceX

The booster flying that flew Friday, often known as tail quantity B1061, made its tenth journey to house. The booster debuted Nov. 15, 2020, with the launch of NASA’s Crew-1 mission carrying a workforce of 4 astronauts to the International Space Station. Booster No. 1061’s launch Friday was its first mission from Vandenberg, following 9 prior flights from the Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The payload fairing on Friday’s mission was additionally reused from earlier missions. Both halves of the clamshell-like nostril cone had been flying for the fourth time, and a SpaceX restoration workforce was on station within the Pacific Ocean to retrieve the fairing shells after parachuting into the ocean.

While SpaceX’s restoration groups retrieved the booster and fairing halves, the Falcon 9’s single-use higher stage delivered the 46 Starlink satellites into an on-target orbit for deployment utilizing two burns by its Merlin engine. That set the stage for separation of the 46 Starlink satellites about 63 minutes into the mission.

SpaceX waited a couple of minutes to substantiate the deployment occasion till the rocket flew in vary of a floor station at Svalbard within the Arctic Ocean.

The Starlink 3-2 mission goals to deploy 46 web satellites into polar orbit. Credit: Spaceflight Now

After separating from the Falcon 9, the Starlink satellites had been anticipated to disperse and prolong photo voltaic panels to start producing electrical energy to recharge their batteries. The satellites will undergo an automatic checkout and activation sequence, then use krypton-fueled ion thrusters to boost their altitude to 348 miles (560 kilometers), the place they are going to enter operational service within the Starlink community.

The Starlink satellites every weigh greater than a quarter-ton, and are constructed on SpaceX’s Starlink meeting line in Redmond, Washington. The spacecraft are fitted with laser inter-satellite hyperlinks to facilitate information transfers in orbit, with no need to relay alerts by floor stations, which include geographical, and generally political, constraints. Laser crosslinks also can scale back latency within the Starlink community as a result of alerts must journey a shorter distance.

SpaceX’s Starlink community offers low-latency broadband web service to customers world wide. The fleet is the biggest constellation of satellites in orbit, with 2,287 Starlink spacecraft presently in service, and 444 extra satellites elevating their orbits or drifting into their operational positions within the community, in line with a tabulation by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist and knowledgeable tracker of spaceflight exercise.

The 46 new satellites launched Friday introduced the full variety of Starlink spacecraft deployed to this point to three,055.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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