December 7, 2023

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More Starlink 2nd Generation Satellites Launched on Falcon 9 Rocket – Spaceflight Now

More Starlink 2nd Generation Satellites Launched on Falcon 9 Rocket – Spaceflight Now

Watch a replay of our live coverage of the countdown and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Starlink 6-4 mission at 8:20 AM EST (1220 UTC) on June 4 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, Florida. Follow us Twitter.

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SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Sunday morning with 22 upgraded Starlink internet satellites, but officials canceled a second Falcon 9 launch later in the day due to high winds in the crane’s offshore recovery area.

The 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 lifted off from Platform 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 8:20 a.m. EDT (1220 UTC), displacing 22 second-generation Starlink satellites into orbit. On a SpaceX mission called Starlink 6-4.

Final launch preparations were behind schedule Sunday morning, resulting in a delay of about two and a half hours for Starlink 6-4’s launch.

Less than four hours later, another Falcon 9 is set for liftoff a few miles offshore from Platform 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. But SpaceX canceled the launch attempt, delaying takeoff until Monday due to high winds in the Falcon 9 first-stage rover’s lower landing area.

When it lifts off, this mission will send an unmanned Cargo Dragon supply ship on a flight to the International Space Station.

The Starlink 6-4 mission continued with the launch of SpaceX’s new Starlink V2 Mini satellite platform equipped with improved phased array antennas, capable of four times the communications capacity of previous generations of Starlink satellites, known as version 1.5. Starlink satellites transmit Internet signals to consumers around the world.

SpaceX delayed the Starlink 6-4 mission from June 1 after a carrier carrying the Falcon 9 payload exhibit containing an array of Starlink satellites collided with an electric line at a Florida spaceport. The accident caused a brief blackout at Kennedy Space Center on May 27, and flashes of energy were visible in the sky above the launch base.

The carrier was carrying Starlink satellites within payload width from a processing facility to the Falcon 9 hangar at Platform 40. It was not clear if SpaceX replaced the Starlink satellites and payload fairing that hit electrical lines for a new batch of spacecraft. The payload exhibit containing the satellites launched Sunday traveled from SpaceX’s Roberts Way facility at Kennedy Space Center to the hangar at Platform 40 on Friday.

SpaceX technicians in Pillow Hangar 40 rotated the horizontal fairing and attached it to the Falcon 9 rocket, then rolled the entire launch vehicle to the platform and raised it vertically in preparation for the Sunday morning countdown.

Despite its name, the Starlink V2 Mini satellites are four times bulkier and larger than the older Starlink V1.5 satellites. Like all Starlink launches, the Falcon 9 rocket launched the new batch of internet satellites into orbit below its final operating altitude. The satellites will then use onboard thrusters to raise their orbits to an altitude of more than 300 miles (500 kilometers).

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The “Mini” moniker refers to SpaceX’s plans to launch a larger, full-size Starlink V2 satellite design on the company’s massive new Starship rocket. Starship has nearly 10 times the payload capacity of a Falcon 9 rocket, with a larger satellite size as well.

The full-size Starlink V2s will be able to send signals directly to mobile phones. But with the Starship rocket still inoperable after its first full-scale test flight in April, SpaceX has begun launching second-generation satellites on Falcon 9 rockets and upgraded V2 Minis to fit the company’s existing launch vehicles.

The first group of 21 Starlink V2 Mini satellites launched Feb. 27 on a Falcon 9 rocket, but some of those spacecraft have been decommissioned and deliberately redirected back into the atmosphere due to technical problems. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, said the first batch of Starlink V2 Mini satellites were “having some issues, as expected.” SpaceX planned to thoroughly test the satellites before boosting them above the International Space Station’s altitude to its final operational orbit.

SpaceX continued to launch older Starlink V1.5 satellites on a series of missions in March and April, before resuming deployment of larger and more capable Starlink V2 mini satellites with the launch of the Falcon 9 on April 19. Since then, SpaceX has launched four missions with older Starlink V1.5 satellites before returning to larger V2 Minis again for its May 19 launch.

Side-by-side comparison of Starlink V1.5 and Starlink V2 Mini satellites. Credit: SpaceX / Spaceflight Now

In addition to improved communications capability, the Starlink V2 Mini satellites have more efficient, higher-powered argon-fueled thrusters. Argon is cheaper than the Kryptonian gas used to power the ion thrusters of the older generation Starlink V1.5 satellites.

“This means Starlink can deliver more bandwidth while increasing reliability and connecting millions of people around the world to high-speed internet,” SpaceX said ahead of the first launch of the Starlink V2 Mini satellites in February.

Each Starlink V2 Mini satellite weighs approximately 1,760 lb (800 kg) at launch, nearly three times heavier than older Starlink satellites. It’s also larger, with a spacecraft fuselage more than 13 feet (4.1 meters) wide, and filling more payload for a Falcon 9 rocket during launch, according to regulatory filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

The larger, heavier satellite platform means the Falcon 9 rocket can only launch about 22 Starlink V2 Mini payloads at a time, compared to more than 50 Starlink V1.5s in a single Falcon 9 launch.

The deployable solar panels on each Starlink V2 Mini satellite span 100 feet (30 meters) end-to-end. The previous generation of Starlink V1.5 satellites had a single solar array wing, with each spacecraft measuring about 36 feet (11 meters) end-to-end once the solar panel was extended.

The improvements give the Starlink V2 Mini satellites a total surface area of ​​1,248 square feet, or 116 square meters, more than four times the area of ​​a Starlink V1.5 satellite.

Federal Communications granted approval for SpaceX on December 1 to launch up to 7,500 of the planned 29,988 Starlink Gen2 constellations, which will be deployed in slightly different orbits than the original Starlink fleet. The regulatory agency has delayed a decision on the remaining proposed second-generation SpaceX satellites.

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Specifically, the FCC has authorized SpaceX to launch the initial mass of 7,500 Starlink Gen2 satellites into orbits at 525, 530, and 535 kilometers, with inclinations of 53, 43, and 33 degrees, respectively, using Ku-band frequencies. and Ka-band. . SpaceX began launching Starlink V1.5 satellites of older design into certified orbits for the Gen2 constellation in December.

The FCC previously authorized SpaceX to launch and operate approximately 4,400 first-generation Ka-band and Ku-band Starlink spacecraft that SpaceX has launched since 2019. SpaceX is nearing completion with launches to fill its Starlink network of first generation.

With Sunday’s launch, SpaceX has sent 528 Starlink Gen2 satellites into orbit, including the Starlink V1.5 and Starlink V2 Mini. After this mission, SpaceX deployed 4,543 Starlink satellites, including test units that are no longer in service. There are currently more than 4,200 Starlink satellites in orbit. According to Jonathan McDowell, An astrophysicist and space expert who blogs about spaceflight activity.

During the early morning countdown Sunday, the SpaceX launch team was stationed inside the Launch Control Center south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station monitoring key systems on the Falcon 9 rocket and at the launch pad. SpaceX began loading condensed kerosene and ultra-cold liquid oxygen thrusters into the Falcon 9 spacecraft in T-minus 35 minutes.

Helium pressure material also flowed into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. In the final seven minutes before liftoff, the Falcon 9 Merlin’s main engines are thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as a “chilldown”. The Falcon 9’s guidance and field safety systems are also configured for launch.

After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket directed 1.7 million pounds of thrust—produced by nine Merlin engines—to steer southeast into the Atlantic Ocean. The Falcon 9 rocket exceeded the speed of sound in about one minute, then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The booster stage separated from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then fired pulses from cold gas control thrusters and extended titanium grille fins to help guide the vehicle back into the atmosphere.

A brake burn slowed the rocket as it descended into the “just read the instructions” drone ship about 400 miles (640 kilometers) about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. The reusable booster, designated B1078 in SpaceX inventory, flew on its third flight into space Sunday.

The Falcon 9’s reusable payload fairing was discarded during the second stage burn. The salvage ship was also on station in the Atlantic to recover the nose cone halves after they had been sprayed under parachutes.

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The first-stage landing of Sunday’s mission occurred just as the Falcon 9’s second-stage engine failed to deliver the Starlink satellites to a first standing orbit. After flying halfway around the world, another upper stage burns down 54 minutes into the mission reconfiguring orbit before payload separation.

The 22 Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, have been confirmed to have separated from a Falcon 9 rocket about 65 minutes after liftoff.

The Falcon 9’s guidance computer aims to deploy the satellites into an orbit at an inclination of 43 degrees to the equator, with an elevation of between 195 miles and 200 miles (314 by 323 kilometers). After separating from the rocket, the 22 Starlink spacecraft will launch the solar arrays, run them through the automated activation steps, and then use argon-fueled ion engines to maneuver them into operational orbit.

rocket: Falcon 9 (B1078.3)

Payload: 22 Starlink V2 miniature satellites (Starlink 6-4)

Launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida

Lunch date: June 4, 2023

launch time: 8:20 a.m. EST (1220 UTC)

weather forecast: 15% chance of fair weather; low risk of upper level winds; Reduced risk of conditions unfavorable to an enhanced recovery

Recovery from boost: An unmanned ship with the “Just Read Instructions” logo, northeast of the Bahamas


target orbit: 195 miles by 200 miles (314 kilometers by 323 kilometers), 43.0 degrees

Launch timeline:

  • T+00:00: take off
  • T+01:12: Max Air Pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:32: Main engine cut-off first stage (MICO)
  • T+02:35: Phase separation
  • T+02:42: Second Stage Engine Ignition (SES 1)
  • T+03:08: Abandoning the peak
  • T+06:16: First stage entry burner ignition (three engines)
  • T+06:34: First stage entry afterburner cut off
  • T+08:07: First stage combustion ignition (single engine)
  • T+08:28: First stage landing
  • T+08:44: Second stage engine cut off (SECO 1)
  • T+54:22: Second Stage Engine Ignition (SES 2)
  • T+54:24: Second Stage Engine Cut Off (SECO 2)
  • T+1:05:02: Starlink satellite disconnected

Mission stats:

  • The 229th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
  • The 240th launch of the Falcon family since 2006
  • Third launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1078
  • Flight 170 of the repurposed Falcon booster
  • SpaceX launch 193rd from the Florida Space Coast
  • Falcon 9 127 launched from pad 40
  • 182nd launch overall from plate 40
  • The 87th Falcon 9 launch is primarily for the Starlink network
  • The 35th Falcon 9 launch in 2023
  • The 38th launch by SpaceX in 2023
  • The 27th launch attempt into orbit from Cape Canaveral in 2023