One of SpaceX’s oldest rockets launched on its historic tenth flight, carrying the first set of Starlink satellites into space more than two months ago before descending into the sea to finish the successful mission.
The previously launched Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Station at 11:55 p.m. EDT (8:55 p.m. PT or 0355 Sept. 14 GMT), marking the company’s 22nd launch of this general. It also set a 10th flight record for this boosted first stage.
“What a beautiful view of the Falcon 9 as it successfully lifts off from the 4E platform at Vandenberg Space Force Base, carrying a stack of 51 Starlink satellites into orbit,” SpaceX’s Youmei Zhou said during the launch broadcast.
“The first stage has landed on our unmanned ship for the 10th time,” Zhou added after the booster vehicle landed, noting that this landing is the company’s 90th successful landing so far.
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The successful liftoff marked the first time that SpaceX had launched an array of Starlink satellites at one of its 229-foot (70 m) Falcon 9 rockets from launch facilities in California. It’s also the first dedicated Starlink flight in more than two months, which was a stark change to the regular cadence set earlier this year as SpaceX launched its own satellites almost weekly.
About nine minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth, landing aboard SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone for a successful 10th landing — the first stage of the Falcon 9’s first stage to do just that. . The massive ship, formerly stationed in Florida, made a voyage through the Panama Canal in support of the company’s west coast restoration efforts.
Vandenberg Space Force Base is best known for its marine stratum, a thick shroud of fog that blankets the area and obstructs view. This phenomenon was evident during the live broadcast as the missile was barely visible on the launch pad.
The Starlink megaconstellation from SpaceX was created with one main goal in mind: to provide Internet coverage to the world. The company said the company is specifically targeting users in remote or rural areas who currently have little or no internet connection, but that users around the world will be able to sign up for the service.
At the same time, SpaceX hopes Starlink will serve as a way to fund its deep space ambitions, such as the Starship program. To this end, the company’s engineers designed a fleet of flat-panel broadband satellites to fly over the Earth, broadcasting Internet coverage to users who could access the service via a small-scale user terminal.
With Monday’s successful launch, SpaceX has put 1,791 Starlink satellites into orbit (including initial test versions), exceeding the company’s initial quota of 1,440 satellites. However, the company has official approval for thousands more.
To date, SpaceX has delivered more than 100,000 Starlink internet stations, and the service has been approved to operate in at least 14 different countries, with applications pending in several more.
“With each Starlink launch, we are getting closer to connecting the world,” Chu said during the launch broadcast.
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SpaceX has benefited from its fleet-proven boosters, with today’s flight marking another milestone for the company. The flight is the first of Starlink’s recently upgraded Internet satellites, which are now equipped with in-satellite laser communications.
SpaceX typically keeps its boosters with fewer miles on them to pay customers, and chooses to reserve the most airborne boosts for its own missions. This way, SpaceX can push each booster to their limits, as the company demonstrates by launching this particular booster for the tenth time.
The booster used in Monday’s launch, called B1049, is one of SpaceX’s oldest members of the frequent flyer club. The veteran rocket launcher now has 10 launches and landings under its belt as the company continues to push its Falcon 9 rockets to the limit.
This booster made its debut in September 2018 with the launch of a communications satellite, called Telstar 18V for Canada. It then made a cross-country trip to launch a batch of Iridium NEXT satellites before returning to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station where it launched seven Starlink missions.
After a cross-country flight from Cape Canaveral to Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, the booster was ready to lift its tenth payload: a full stack of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, launched into a polar trajectory in order to serve customers at higher latitudes.
This is the 125th flight of the Falcon 9 rocket booster, and the 70th lighting for a revamped one. It’s also the first launch of two different Falcon 9 aircraft this week.
Sitting atop Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is another veteran Falcon 9 rocket. If all goes as planned, Wednesday night, the Falcon 9 rocket will carry its first civilian crew on a three-day flight around Earth as part of the A task called Inspiration4.
This mission will feature the Falcon 9 missile used and the Dragon spacecraft used. The Falcon 9 has truly been a workhorse for SpaceX, earning its place in the most rockets being produced today. With the debut of the improved iteration we see today, SpaceX is able to achieve its goal of rapid reuse.
To facilitate reuse, SpaceX modified its main launcher in 2018, adding some nice upgrades — including a more robust thermal protection system, titanium grille fins, and more powerful engines. This version of Falcon 9, known as Block 5, has enabled SpaceX to launch more rockets than ever before.
When it launched three years ago, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk told reporters the company expected to fly each Falcon 9 10 times with few renovations between flights, and up to 100 times before retirement.
SpaceX achieved this feat for the first time with another booster – B1051. This operator was the first to hit 10 flights and won’t be stopping anytime soon. According to Musk, 10 trips is not a fixed limit or a magic number. And as the company continues to improve the renovation process, he said, it will continue to push every hawk to the breaking point.
Now that B1049 has also reached the historic 10-flight mark, the company will have more data to follow.
SpaceX had a remarkable year in 2020, as the company has not only launched the most rockets since its founding in 2002 but has also launched humans into space from US soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. The key to its success has been its fleet of rockets. which has proven its worth.
The company has no plans to slow down any time soon, as it hopes to launch 30 standard rockets in 2021. It is also preparing to launch its fourth manned mission, which will take off on Wednesday evening (September 15). Jared Isakman, Hayley Arsenault, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembrowski on a three-day orbital flight. The Inspiration4 mission is part of a fundraising effort for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and is scheduled to launch during a five-hour window that opens at 8:02 p.m. EDT (0002 GMT).
When the first stage of the booster returns to port, it will sail to Port Long Beach, marking the third different port this booster has returned to after delivering its payload into orbit. (The other two are Port Canaveral and the Port of Los Angeles, where SpaceX previously established its West Coast operations.)
In addition to restoring the first stage of the Falcon rocket, SpaceX will also restore the rocket’s payload hull, or nose cone. The shell-like devices are designed to protect the payload as it ascends through the atmosphere and then dispose of it once the missile reaches a certain altitude. With each half valued at $3 million, the company can actually cut costs by revamping the wings and flying them again.
In fact, each of the gift pieces used in this mission had been moved several times before. Equipped with navigation software and parachutes, the glides will gently glide into the Pacific Ocean where it will be retrieved by a ship called the NRC Quest, one of SpaceX’s recovery ships. With any luck, they will be flying again soon.
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