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SpaceX breaks cycle of scrubs with successful Falcon 9 launch

SpaceX breaks cycle of scrubs with successful Falcon 9 launch
A Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from pad 39A Tuesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: SpaceX Sixty more SpaceX Starlink broadband satellites rocketed into orbit Tuesday from the Kennedy Space Center, breaking a streak canceled launch attempts at the Florida spaceport in recent weeks and nudging the Starlink network closer to reaching…
A Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from pad 39 A Tuesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: SpaceX

Sixty more SpaceX Starlink broadband satellites soared into orbit Tuesday from the Kennedy Area Center, breaking a streak canceled launch efforts at the Florida spaceport in recent weeks and nudging the Starlink network closer to reaching a broader population.

Nine Merlin 1D engines flashed to life and powered the Falcon 9 launcher off pad 39 A at the Kennedy Area Center at 7: 29: 34 a.m. EDT (1129: 34 GMT) Tuesday, a couple of minutes after dawn on Florida’s Space Coast.

The nine kerosene-fueled engines guided the 229- foot-tall (70- meter) rocket toward the northeast from the spaceport with 1.7 million pounds of thrust. Two-and-a-half minutes later, the very first phase booster closed down and rejected to start a descent toward SpaceX’s drone ship positioned in the Atlantic Ocean around 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral.

The Falcon 9’s first stage nailed the landing– the 61 st successful healing of a SpaceX rocket booster– as the second stage injected the mission’s 60 Starlink satellites into orbit.

The reusable booster used on Tuesday’s objective completed its third trip to area and back, following flights earlier this year to assist send out NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into orbit on a Crew Dragon pill in Might, and a launch in July with South Korea’s Anasis 2 military communications satellite.

One half of the two-piece, clamshell-like payload fairing on Tuesday’s mission was also making its 3rd flight. A healing boat in the Atlantic caught the recyclable fairing half again Tuesday as it descended under a parachute.

While SpaceX’s fleet was at work recovering rocket hardware in the Atlantic, the Falcon 9’s upper stage fired up a second time to put the 60 Starlink payloads into an on-target near-circular orbit around 170 miles (275 kilometers) above Earth, with a disposition of 53 degrees to the equator.

The 60 flat-panel satellites separated from the Falcon 9’s upper phase around 8: 31 a.m. EDT (1231 GMT). A live video feed from the rocket revealed the payloads drifting away into area.

The 60 spacecraft, developed by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, were expected to unfurl solar panels and trigger krypton ion thrusters to begin raising their elevation to roughly 341 miles (550 kilometers), where they will start providing high speed broadband service.

Here’s a replay of this early morning’s launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center. It’s carrying 60 more Starlink broadband satellites into orbit for SpaceX.

Continuing protection: https://t.co/I0aLt9FqRS pic.twitter.com/uq3a7a9HbB

— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) October 6, 2020

The effective launch Tuesday took place on SpaceX’s fifth try to send the next 60 Starlink satellites into orbit.

A launch effort Sept. 17 was cancelled due to poor sea conditions in the downrange recovery zone for the Falcon 9’s multiple-use very first phase booster. SpaceX scrubbed a Sept. 28 launch attempt at T-minus 31 seconds because of bad weather at the launch website.

SpaceX tried again to release the Starlink mission Thursday, Oct. 1, however an unexpected reading from a ground sensing unit prompted an automated abort at T-minus 18 seconds. A fourth launch attempt Monday ended right before fueling of the Falcon 9 rocket as rain showers and thunderstorms moved over the Kennedy Area Center.

Cumulus clouds from nearby rain showers threatened to scrub Tuesday’s countdown, but the weather held back long enough for the Falcon 9 to fire off into a clear sky.

Amidst the Starlink launch attempts in recent weeks, teams at Cape Canaveral have tried to send out two other missions into orbit.

A various Falcon 9 rocket was expected to launch Friday night from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with a GPS navigation satellite for the U.S. Space Force. A prospective problem associated with an engine on the rocket prompted an automatic abort just 2 seconds prior to liftoff. SpaceX has not set a new target launch date for the GPS mission.

Meanwhile, United Release Alliance has actually attempted to release a Delta 4-Heavy rocket with a U.S. federal government spy satellite from pad 37 B at Cape Canaveral given that late August. Issues with launch pad devices have delayed the launch more than a month, and a countdown Sept. 30 was again stopped 7 seconds prior to launch. ULA has likewise not announced a schedule for the next Delta 4-Heavy launch effort.

With Tuesday launch, SpaceX has actually released 775 Starlink satellites to date, consisting of two prototype platforms and 773 satellites on 13 Falcon 9 launches since May 2019.

SpaceX prepares to run an initial block of around 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbits 341 miles above Earth. The company, established by billionaire Elon Musk, has regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually field a fleet of approximately 12,000 little Starlink broadband stations operating in Ku-band, Ka-band, and V-band frequencies.

Siva Bharadvaj, a spacecraft operations engineer at SpaceX who hosted the business’s launch webcast Tuesday, stated the Starlink network is “still very much a work in progress.”

” Starlink is a constellation of satellites that can provide high-speed, low-latency web all over the world, especially in remote and backwoods where connection is typically restricted and in some cases completely unavailable,” Bharadvaj stated.

Personal beta screening of the Starlink web network began earlier this year in Washington, allowing SpaceX to begin collecting latency statistics and speed tests.

On Sept. 28, the Washington Military Department announced it was using the Starlink internet service as emergency situation responders and homeowners in Malden, Washington, recuperate from a wildfire that ruined much of the town.

Happy to have the support of @SpaceX‘s Starlink web as emergency responders look to help residents rebuild the town of Malden, WA that was gotten rid of by wildfires previously this month. #wawildfire pic.twitter.com/xUSQOjcT4T

— WA Emergency Situation Management (@waEMD) September 28, 2020

The Washington emergency situation responders established a Starlink ground terminal in Malden. SpaceX said in Tuesday’s launch webcast that the Starlink network is providing web service to locals of the town.

” Starlink will be a transformation in connection, especially for remote areas or for emergency services when landlines are harmed,” tweeted Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO.

The 60 brand-new satellites released Tuesday will enable SpaceX to broaden its beta testing into a public stage with wider participation, Musk said.

” As soon as these satellites reach their target position, we will be able to present a relatively broad public beta in northern United States & ideally southern Canada,” Musk tweeted. “Other countries to follow as soon as we get regulative approval.”

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1

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