July 21, 2024

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SpaceX launches 22 new generation Starlink satellites – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX launches 22 new generation Starlink satellites – Spaceflight Now

Watch a replay of our live coverage of the countdown and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Starlink 6-3 mission at 2:19 a.m. EDT (0619 UTC) on May 19 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, Florida. Follow us Twitter.

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Another Falcon 9 rocket blasted off early Friday from Cape Canaveral with an array of 22 new-generation Starlink internet satellites, the first of two SpaceX missions scheduled to launch within seven hours.

The Starlink 6-3 mission launched at 2:19 a.m. EDT (0619 UTC) from Pad 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral. SpaceX delayed takeoff from its first two launch opportunities in the morning at 12:41 a.m. ET at 1:31 a.m. EST to wait for the weather to improve.

Like all Starlink launches, the Falcon 9 rocket will launch 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).

The SpaceX launch team across the country in California prepares to launch a different Falcon 9 rocket at 9:19 a.m. EDT (6:19 a.m. PT; 1319 UTC) from Vandenberg Space Force Base. This mission will provide satellites for the communications and data networks operated by OneWeb and Iridium.

The Starlink 6-3 mission will continue to launch SpaceX’s new Starlink V2 Mini satellite platform equipped with improved phased array antennas with four times the communications capacity of previous generations of Starlink satellites, known as Version 1.5, to send Internet signals to consumers around the world. Despite its name, the Starlink V2 Mini satellites are four times bulkier and larger than the older Starlink V1.5 satellites.

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.

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Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, tweeted that 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 with launch Friday morning.

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 first two Falcon 9 satellites with the Starlink V2 Mini carried 21 spacecraft, while Friday’s Starlink 6-3 mission will deploy 22 spacecraft, matching or slightly exceeding the record for the heaviest payload SpaceX has launched into space.

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

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.

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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 Friday’s launch, SpaceX will have sent 464 Starlink Gen2 satellites into orbit, including the Starlink V1.5 and Starlink V2 Mini. After this mission, SpaceX will deploy 4,469 Starlinks satellites, including test modules that are no longer in service. There are currently more than 4,100 Starlink satellites in orbit. According to McDowell.

A camera aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket shows the exhaust shaft from its nine Merlin main engines. Credit: SpaceX

Gen2 satellites can improve Starlink’s coverage in low latitudes, and help relieve pressure on the network from increased consumer uptake. SpaceX says the network has more than 1 million active subscribers, most of whom are homes in areas where traditional fiber connectivity is unavailable, unreliable, or expensive.

During the nighttime countdown beginning late Thursday night, the SpaceX launch team will be stationed inside the Launch Control Center south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to monitor key systems on the Falcon 9 rocket and at the launch pad. SpaceX will begin loading ultra-cold condensed kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants into the Falcon 9 vehicle in T-minus 35 minutes.

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

After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will direct its 1.7 million pounds of thrust — produced by nine Merlin engines — to steer into the Southeast Atlantic. The Falcon 9 rocket will exceed 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 will separate from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then pulses from cool-gas control thrusters will fire and extend titanium grille fins to help guide the vehicle back into the atmosphere.

Two braking burns will slow the missile as it touches down on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” about 400 miles (640 kilometers) about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. The reusable booster, designated B1076 in the SpaceX inventory, will fly on its fifth flight into space Friday.

The Falcon 9’s reusable payload supply will be discarded during the second stage burn. There is also a salvage ship on station in the Atlantic Ocean to recover the nose cone halves after they fall off under parachutes.

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The Veraday mission first-stage landing will occur just as the Falcon 9’s second-stage engine cuts out to deliver the Starlink satellites to a first standing orbit. The other upper stage, which burns 54 minutes into the mission, will re-orbit before separating the payload.

The 22 Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, are expected to separate from the 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 (B1076.5)

Payload: 22 small satellites Starlink V2 (Starlink 6-3)

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

Lunch date: May 19, 2023

launch time: 2:19 a.m. EST (0619 UTC)

weather forecast: 40-60% chance of fair weather; low risk of upper level winds; Reduced risk of conditions unfavorable to an enhanced recovery

Recovery from boost: Drone vessel named “A Shortfall of Gravitas” 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+02:26: First Engine Main Cut Off (MECO) Stage
  • T+02:30: Phase separation
  • T+02:37: Second stage engine ignition (SES 1)
  • T+03:06: Quiet off
  • T+06:10: first stage entry burner ignition (three engines)
  • T+06:30: First stage entry afterburner cut off
  • T+08:00: First stage burner ignition (single engine)
  • T+08:23: First stage landing
  • T+08:39: Second stage engine cut off (SECO 1)
  • T+54:16: Second stage engine ignition (SES 2)
  • T+54:18: Second Stage Engine Cut Off (SECO 2)
  • T+1:04:56: Starlink satellite disconnected

Mission statistics:

  • The 224th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
  • The 235th launch of the Falcon family since 2006
  • Fifth launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1076
  • Flight 166 of a repurposed Falcon booster
  • SpaceX launch 190th from the Florida Space Coast
  • The 125th Falcon 9 launch from Pad 40
  • 180th launch overall from the 40 board
  • The 85th Falcon 9 launch is primarily for the Starlink network
  • Falcon 9 30 launch in 2023
  • SpaceX 33 launch in 2023
  • The 24th orbital launch attempt will be launched from Cape Canaveral in 2023