Live coverage of the countdown to the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Starlink 4-15 mission launched SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites. Follow us Twitter.
Less than 24 hours after launching its Starlink satellites from California, SpaceX lifted another 53 retransmission stations online at 4:40 p.m. EDT (2040 GMT) Saturday from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. This was SpaceX’s 20th launch of the year, and the second of 2022 for the new Falcon 9 Booster.
The booster craft has landed aboard a SpaceX drone ship “just read the instructions” as it floats in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX completed preparations on a Falcon 9 rocket Saturday, beginning loading super-cooled, condensed kerosene and liquid oxygen thrusters into the 229-foot (70-meter) vehicle in a 35-minute T-minus.
Compressor helium also poured into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. In the last seven minutes before takeoff, the Falcon 9 Merlin’s main engines were thermally adapted to fly by a procedure known as “chilldown”. The Falcon 9’s guidance and range safety systems are also configured for launch at 4:40:50 p.m.
After liftoff, the 229-foot (70 m) Falcon 9 missile directed 1.7 million pounds of thrust—produced by nine Merlin engines—to point northeast over the Atlantic Ocean.
The missile exceeded the speed of sound in about one minute, and then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after takeoff. The booster fell off the upper stage of the Falcon 9, then released pulses of cool gas control thrusters and extended titanium grille fins to help steer the car back into the atmosphere.
Two pelvic burns slowed the missile as it landed on the drone by about 400 miles (650 kilometers) about eight and a half minutes after take-off.
The booster vehicle – tail number B1073 – flew on its first mission on Saturday. The landing of the first stage occurred before the upper stage motor was turned off. The rocket blasted off halfway around the world before re-igniting the Merlin-Vacuum upper stage engine about 45 minutes into the mission, paving the way for the separation of the 53 Starlink satellites in T+ plus 54 minutes and 32 seconds.
The retaining rails were released from the Starlink payload stack, allowing the flat-packed satellites to fly freely from the Falcon 9’s upper stage into orbit. The 53 spacecraft will rotate and power the solar arrays through automated activation steps, then use krypton-fueled ion engines to maneuver into their operational orbit.
Falcon 9’s guidance computer to deploy satellites in a semicircular orbit between 189 miles and 197 miles (305 x 318 kilometers), at an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator. The satellites will use onboard thrust to do the rest of the work to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.
The Starlink satellites will fly on Saturday’s mission in one of five orbital “shells” used in SpaceX’s global web. After reaching their operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin transmitting broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase Starlink service and connect to the network through a ground station provided by SpaceX.
Following Friday’s mission, SpaceX has launched 2,600 Starlink satellites so far, including spacecraft that have either been decommissioned or have experienced failures. More than 2,200 of those satellites are in orbit and operational as of this week, according to a list maintained by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist who closely tracks spaceflight activity.
Read our mission preview story for more details.
missiles: Falcon 9 (B1073.1)
Payloads: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-15)
launch sites: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida
Opening dates: May 14, 2022
launch time: 4:40:50 PM EST (2040:50 GMT)
weather forecast: 80% chance of acceptable weather; low risk of upper level winds; Low risk of conditions unfavorable for enhanced recovery
Recovery from reinforcement: Unmanned ship bearing the slogan “Just Read Instructions” east of Charleston, South Carolina
AZIMUTH LAUNCH: the Northeast
Orbit goals: 189 miles by 197 miles (305 kilometers by 318 kilometers), 53.2 degrees miles
- T+00:00: take off
- T+01: 12: maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:34: 1st stage for main engine cut-off (MICU)
- T+02:37: Separation stage
- T+02:44: engine ignition second stage
- T+02:50: Get rid of the calm
- T+06:23: Ignition of burning entering the first stage (three engines)
- T+06:37: First stage entry combustion cut off
- T+07:59: 1st stage burner ignition (single engine)
- T+08:24: First stage landing
- T+08:50: Second stage engine cut-off (SECO 1)
- T+45:29: Second stage restart
- T+45: 31: second stage engine cut-off (SECO 2)
- T+54:32: Starlink satellite disconnect
- The 154th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
- The 162nd launch of the Falcon family since 2006
- First launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1073
- Falcon 9 #134 launched from Florida’s space coast
- Launch of Falcon 9 #86 from the 40 . platform
- 141st release overall from plate 40
- Flight 67 of the new booster Falcon
- The launch of the 46th dedicated Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
- 20 Falcon 9 launched in 2022
- 20th launch by SpaceX in 2022
- 19th orbital launch from Cape Canaveral in 2022
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