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SpaceX introduces 60 more Starlink satellites on 100th Falcon 9 flight

SpaceX introduces 60 more Starlink satellites on 100th Falcon 9 flight
A Falcon 9 rocket climbs away from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday night. Credit: SpaceX The 100th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket delivered 60 satellites to orbit for SpaceX’s Starlink network Tuesday night, adding another building block to a planned fleet of thousands of solar-powered space-based relay stations to…
A Falcon 9 rocket climbs away from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday night. Credit: SpaceX

The 100 th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket provided 60 satellites to orbit for SpaceX’s Starlink network Tuesday night, including another foundation to a planned fleet of countless solar-powered space-based relay stations to beam broadband connection worldwide.

The effective mission late Tuesday also set a new record for SpaceX’s rocket reuse program– one that could be broken again within months if SpaceX maintains its feverish launch cadence. For the very first time, a reusable Falcon 9 booster completed its seventh trip to space and back on Tuesday night’s flight.

The Falcon 9 rocket fired its nine kerosene-fueled Merlin 1D engines and roared off pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Flying force Station at 9: 13: 12 p.m. EST Tuesday (0213: 12 GMT Wednesday). The 229- foot-tall (70- meter) launcher darted through a broken cloud layer over the pad and rocketed towards the northeast from Cape Canaveral to line up with the mission’s targeted orbital plane within the Starlink network.

The rocket’s 15- story very first phase booster dropped away from the Falcon 9 upper phase about two-and-a-half after liftoff, setting a course for a regulated touchdown on SpaceX’s drone ship “Obviously I Still Love You” placed several hundred miles northeast of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean,

The booster– designated B1049 in SpaceX’s rocket inventory– reignited its center engine for a braking maneuver right before goal, then extended a landing equipment prior to settling onto the deck of the drone ship. The obviously flawless landing punctuated the seventh mission of the B1049 car, making it SpaceX’s “fleet leader.”

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, has stated the latest variation of the Falcon 9 booster might fly 10 times with no significant repair, and possibly 100 times with regular overhauls.

Flying some 140 miles over the North Atlantic, 60 brand-new Starlink internet satellites have released from the upper stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

This brings the overall number of Starlinks launched since May 2019 to 955. https://t.co/5fFiWvJxb4 pic.twitter.com/f2DHahj1j1

— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) November 25, 2020

Together with its reused first phase booster, the Falcon 9 released with a recycled clamshell-like payload shroud, half of which flew on 2 previous objectives. The other half of the fairing was a veteran one previous launch.

Two healing vessels were dispatched to sea to recover the fairing halves from Tuesday night’s mission after they parachuted back to Earth from area.

While the booster and fairing shells descended back to Earth, the Falcon 9’s upper phase directed the 60 flat-panel Starlink satellites into a transfer orbit likely 53 degrees to the equator. Around 15 minutes after liftoff, the upper phase launched retention rods to permit the stack of 60 spacecraft to fly devoid of the rocket over the North Atlantic Ocean.

The Falcon 9 intended to place the satellites into an elliptical orbit varying between 132 miles (213 kilometers) and 227 miles (366 kilometers). A member of SpaceX’s launch team validated on a mission audio loop that the rocket achieved an on-target orbital insertion.

The launch was previously scheduled Saturday night, then postponed to Sunday, when SpaceX called off a launch effort due to concerns about “mission guarantee.” SpaceX bypassed a launch chance Monday due to a forecast of poor conditions in the Falcon 9 booster’s overseas landing zone, setting the stage for Tuesday’s countdown.

Tuesday night’s launch was the 23 rd SpaceX objective of 2020, extending the company’s record cadence of flights. The previous record for the most SpaceX launches in a year was 21 missions in 2018.

The exhaust plume from 9 Merlin 1D primary engines appeared as the Falcon 9 rocket skyrocketed through clouds over Cape Canaveral on Tuesday night. Credit: Stephen Clark/ Spaceflight Now

The quarter-ton Starlink satellites, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, were anticipated to unfurl power-generating solar selections and prime their krypton ion thrusters to start raising their orbits to a functional altitude of 341 miles (550 kilometers), where they will sign up with more than 800 other Starlink relay stations to beam broadband internet signals across most of the inhabited world.

With the launch Sunday, SpaceX has deployed 955 Starlink satellites into orbit.

SpaceX plans to operate a preliminary block of around 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbits 341 miles above Earth. The business, established by billionaire Elon Musk, has regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually field a fleet of approximately 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations running in Ku-band, Ka-band, and V-band frequencies.

There are likewise preliminary prepare for an even bigger fleet of 30,000 extra Starlink satellites, however a network of that size has not been authorized by the FCC.

Flying some 140 miles over the North Atlantic, 60 new Starlink internet satellites have actually released from the upper stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

This brings the overall variety of Starlinks released given that May 2019 to 955. https://t.co/5fFiWvJxb4 pic.twitter.com/f2DHahj1j1

— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) November 25, 2020

SpaceX says the Starlink network– developed for low-latency internet service– has entered a beta screening stage in multiple U.S. states and Canada.

” Last month, SpaceX launched its “Better Than Absolutely nothing Beta” test program,” the company stated in a post on its site. “Service welcomes were sent to a portion of those who asked for schedule updates on Starlink.com and who live in serviceable areas. A couple weeks earlier, Canada granted Starlink regulative approval and recently SpaceX presented the service to parts of parts of southern Canada.”

The “invitation-only” beta testing program is focused on testing Starlink connection in rural and remote locations in the northern United States and southern Canada, stated Kate Tice, a SpaceX engineer who co-hosted the company’s launch webcast Tuesday night.

” As we introduce more satellites, set up more ground stations, and improve our networking software application, data speed, latency, and uptime will all improve drastically,” Tice said.

SpaceX tasks latency on the Starlink network will be up to around 16 to 19 milliseconds by mid-2019, Tice stated.

” At our existing pace, we expect to expand our beta in a notable method very early next year, in the late January-February timeframe,” she said.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1

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