Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Starlink 4-19 mission launched SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites. follow us on twitter.
SpaceX launched a reusable Falcon 9 rocket for the record 13th time on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying 53 more Starlink Internet satellites into orbit. Takeoff from platform 39A took place at 12:09 am EDT (1609 GMT).
Falcon 9 will head northeast of Kennedy to deliver the compact broadband relay stations for an orbit ranging between 144 miles and 209 miles in altitude (232 by 337 kilometers). Deployment of Falcon 9’s 53 upper stage compact satellites is expected about 15 minutes after liftoff.
The launch will kick off a busy weekend for SpaceX, with two more Falcon 9 flights on Saturday and Sunday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and then from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, just a few miles away. south of the Kennedy Space Center.
With Friday’s mission, SpaceX will launch 2,706 Starlink internet satellites, including prototypes and test units that are no longer in service, nearly an order of magnitude more spacecraft than any other spacecraft fleet. The launch on Friday will mark SpaceX’s 48th mission primarily dedicated to putting the Starlink Internet satellites into orbit.
Parked inside a firing room at Kennedy’s launch control center, the SpaceX launch team will begin loading super-cooled, densified kerosene and liquid oxygen thrusters onto the 70-meter-tall Falcon 9 vehicle at T-minus 35 minutes on Friday.
The helium pressurizer will also flow into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. In the last seven minutes before takeoff, the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will be thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “chilldown”. Falcon 9’s range guidance and safety systems will also be configured for launch at 12:08:50 pm
After liftoff, the 70-meter-tall Falcon 9 rocket will vector its 1.7 million pounds of thrust – produced by nine Merlin engines – to travel northeastward over the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket will exceed the speed of sound in about a minute and then shut off its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The booster will be released from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then fire pulses from cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help direct the vehicle back into the atmosphere.
Two braking burns will slow the rocket to land on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” about 400 miles (650 kilometers) approximately eight and a half minutes after takeoff.
The booster stage flying on Friday – tail number B1060 – will set a new record for becoming the most flown member of SpaceX’s reusable rocket fleet. It debuted on June 30, 2020, with the launch of a GPS navigation satellite for the US military, then flew again in September and October 2020 on Starlink missions.
It launched six times in 2021 with the Türksat 5A geostationary communications satellite, four Starlink missions and SpaceX’s small Transporter 2 satellite ride-sharing mission. Friday’s launch will be the fourth flight of the booster in 2022, all dedicated flights to the Starlink network.
SpaceX has qualified Falcon 9 thrusters for at least 15 missions, up from the previous lifespan of 10 flights for each Falcon 9 first stage.
The first stage landing on Friday’s mission will take place moments before the Falcon 9’s second stage engine shuts down to put the Starlink satellites into orbit. The separation of the 53 spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, is planned at T+plus 15 minutes and 26 seconds.
The retaining rods will be released from the Starlink payload stack, allowing the compact satellites to fly free from the Falcon 9’s upper stage in orbit. Spacecraft 53 will unroll solar panels and go through automated activation steps, then use krypton-powered ion engines to maneuver into its operational orbit.
Falcon 9’s guidance computer was intended to deploy the satellites in an elliptical orbit between 144 and 209 miles in altitude, with an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator. The satellites will use onboard propulsion to do the rest of the work to achieve a circular orbit 540 kilometers above Earth.
Friday’s launch will be the first to put Starlink satellites into a low-altitude elliptical transfer orbit since February, when aerodynamic drag produced by a solar storm caused nearly 40 Starlink satellites to re-enter the atmosphere shortly after launch. . Since then, all SpaceX Starlink launches have included two burns by the upper stage engine to ascend to a higher orbit for spacecraft deployment.
The Starlink satellites on Friday’s mission will fly in one of five orbital “shells” used on SpaceX’s global internet network. After reaching their operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin transmitting broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase the Starlink service and connect to the network with a SpaceX-provided ground terminal.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1060.13)
CHARGE: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-19)
LAUNCH WEBSITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
RELEASE DATE OF: June 17, 2022
LUNCH TIME: 12:09:20 PM EDT (1609:20 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 90% chance of acceptable weather; Low risk of upper level winds; Low risk of unfavorable conditions for booster recovery
REINFORCEMENT RECOVERY: Drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” east of Charleston, South Carolina
AZIMUTE LAUNCH: North East
TARGET ORBIT: 144 miles by 209 miles (232 kilometers by 337 kilometers), 53.2 degrees of incline
- T+00:00: Takeoff
- T+01:12: Maximum downforce (Max-Q)
- T+02:27: First stage main engine cutout (MECO)
- T+02:30: Stage separation
- T+02:37: Second stage engine ignition
- T+02:42: Fairing ejection
- T+06:47: First stage input burn ignition (three motors)
- T+07:07: First stage input burn cutoff
- T+08:24: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:35: First stage landing
- T+08:45: Second stage motor cutout (SECO 1)
- T+15:26: Starlink Satellite Separation
- 158th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 166th launch of the Falcon rocket family since 2006
- 13th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1060
- 138th launch of Falcon 9 from Florida’s Space Coast
- SpaceX’s 50th launch from platform 39A
- 144th general launch from block 39A
- 100th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
- 48th dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites
- 24th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
- SpaceX’s 24th launch in 2022
- 25th orbital launch attempt based at Cape Canaveral in 2022
Send an email to the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.