January 27, 2023

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SpaceX sends 40 OneWeb internet satellites into orbit – Spaceflight Now

Watch our replay of the countdown and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, with 40 Internet satellites from OneWeb. Follow us Twitter.

SFN Live

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Monday night with 40 internet satellites for OneWeb, pushing the network closer to full operational capacity. The Falcon 9 booster returned to Cape Canaveral for landing eight minutes later.

The 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 11:50:17 p.m. EDT (0450:17 GMT). A launcher blasted into the sky with 1.7 million pounds of thrust from nine kerosene-fueled Merlin main engines, kicking off SpaceX’s second mission of the year.

SpaceX delayed the launch of a different Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California Monday night due to inclement weather. This mission was supposed to launch just 35 minutes before OneWeb’s mission from Cape Canaveral, but has now been rescheduled to take off on Tuesday night.

The SpaceX launch team, working in a control center outside the gate to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, began loading ultra-cold condensed kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants into the Falcon 9 vehicle 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.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket heads downhill after liftoff from Cape Canaveral with 40 OneWeb satellites. Credit: Michael Caine/Spaceflight Now/Coldlife Photography

After liftoff, the Falcon 9 pointed its course to the southeast over the Atlantic Ocean, then the bomber turned south to fly parallel to the east coast of Florida, aiming for a polar orbit at an inclination of 87 degrees.

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The operator exceeded the speed of sound in about one minute, then shut down nine main engines about 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. The lighter weight of OneWeb’s 40 satellites allowed the Falcon 9 booster to allocate enough fuel to return to the launch site, which would require an additional engine burn compared to landing rockets on SpaceX’s drone ships.

The first stage landing in Landing Area 1 at Cape Canaveral occurred eight minutes into the mission. The returning booster sent a pair of sonic blasts across Florida’s space coast as it slowed downward. The first stage, designated B1076, completed its second flight into space on a mission Monday night.

A salvage ship was also on station in the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve the Falcon 9 payload after disposal of the rocket.

The Falcon 9 upper stage fired its single engine twice to reach a near-circular polar orbit close to the mission’s target altitude of 373 miles (600 kilometers). The upper stage launched 40 OneWeb satellites about 59 minutes after liftoff, and SpaceX confirmed that all of the spacecraft separated about an hour and 35 minutes into the flight.

The OneWeb satellites, built in a factory outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center, will use xenon-fueled propulsion systems to reach an operating altitude of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) above Earth.

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OneWeb’s launch from Cape Canaveral Monday night was the second of four SpaceX missions planned for the broadband internet provider, which halted launches on Russian Soyuz rockets last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Within weeks, OneWeb signed new contracts with SpaceX and New Space India Ltd. , or NSIL, to launch the Falcon 9 and Indian GSLV Mk.3 rockets to finish building the company’s satellite network.

The number of 40 satellites aboard the Falcon 9 rocket has reached 544.

Adding more relay stations to the constellation expands the reach of the network. London-based OneWeb already provides internet services to communities in Alaska, Canada and northern Europe where a terrestrial fiber connection is not available. The 40 satellites launched Monday night will help put southern Europe, the United States, North Africa, the Middle East, Japan, and parts of Australia and India within reach of OneWeb.

OneWeb’s contract with SpaceX came as a surprise to many satellite industry watchers because OneWeb is an indirect competitor in the broadband market. SpaceX sells Starlink directly to consumers, while OneWeb sells to enterprises, ISPs, maritime companies and airlines to provide connectivity to entire businesses or communities.

A file image from a previous mission shows 40 OneWeb satellites mounted on a hub before being encased inside a SpaceX payload fairing. Credit: OneWeb

Missiles: Falcon 9 (B1076.2)

Payloads: 40 OneWeb satellites (OneWeb 16)

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

Opening dates: January 9, 2023

launch time: 11:50:17 PM (0450:17 GMT)

weather forecast: More than 90% chance of acceptable weather at Cape Canaveral

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Recovery from boost: Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Station

AZIMUTH LAUNCH: Southeast, then south from Cape Canaveral

target orbit: 373 miles (600 km), inclination 87 degrees

ONEWEB 16 LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T+00:00: take off
  • T+01:12: Max Air Pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:18: First Engine Main Cut Off (MECO) Stage
  • T+02:21: Phase separation
  • T+02:28: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:34: Phase 1 boosts back burn ignition
  • T+03:21: The first stage increases the posterior burn cut
  • T+03:34: Quiet out
  • T+06:20: First stage entry burn ignition
  • T+06:36: First stage entry afterburner cut off
  • T+07:27: First stage burner ignited
  • T+07:56: First stage landing
  • T+08:32: Second stage engine cut off (SECO 1)
  • T+55:14: Second stage engine restart (SES 2)
  • T+55:17: Second Stage Engine Cut Off (SECO 2)
  • T+58:49: Separation of the first OneWeb satellites
  • T+01:35:17: Another OneWeb satellite chapter

Mission statistics:

  • The 196th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
  • The 205th launch of the Falcon family since 2006
  • Second launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1076
  • SpaceX launch 168th from the Florida Space Coast
  • 109 Falcon 9 launch from platform 40
  • 164th launch overall from the 40 board
  • Flight 135 of the repurposed Falcon 9 booster
  • SpaceX’s second launch of OneWeb
  • Sixteenth launch of OneWeb
  • The second Falcon 9 launch in 2023
  • The second launch by SpaceX in 2023
  • Second orbital launch from Cape Canaveral in 2023