Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a 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 on Twitter.
Less than 24 hours after the Starlink satellites launched from California, SpaceX deployed 53 more Internet Relay Stations at 4:40 p.m. EDT (2040 GMT) Saturday from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. It was the 20th launch SpaceX of the Year and second of 2022 to launch a new Falcon 9 booster.
The booster landed on SpaceX’s “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX plans to complete Falcon 9 rocket preparations on Saturday and begin loading supercooled and densified kerosene and liquid oxygen boosters into the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) vehicle in T-minus 35 minutes.
The pressurizing helium will also flow into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. During the last seven minutes before liftoff, Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will be thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “cooling down”. Falcon 9’s range guidance and safety systems will also be configured for a 4:40:50 launch.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will direct its 1.7 million pounds of thrust — produced by nine Merlin engines — to head northeast over the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket will exceed the speed of sound in about a minute, then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The thruster will pull away from Falcon 9’s upper stage, then fire pulses of cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help pull the vehicle back into the atmosphere.
Two brake burns will slow the rocket to land on the drone about 400 miles (650 kilometers) approximately eight and a half minutes after liftoff.
The booster – tail number B1073 – is set to launch on its first mission on Saturday. The first stage landing will occur just before the upper stage engine shuts down. The rocket will fly halfway around the world before reigniting the Merlin-Vacuum upper stage engine about 45 minutes into the mission, clearing the way for the 53 Starlink satellites to separate at T+ plus 54 minutes, 32 seconds.
Retention rods will release from the Starlink payload stack, allowing flat-packed satellites to fly freely from the Falcon 9 upper stage into orbit. The 53 spacecraft will deploy solar arrays and go through automated activation stages, then use krypton-powered ion engines to maneuver into their operational orbit.
Falcon 9’s guidance computer will aim to deploy the satellites into a near-circular orbit ranging in altitude between 189 miles and 197 miles (305 by 318 kilometers), at an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees relative to the equator. The satellites will use onboard propulsion to do the rest of the work to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.
The Starlink satellites on Saturday’s mission will fly in one of five orbital “shells” used in SpaceX’s global internet network. After reaching 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 with a ground terminal provided by SpaceX.
After Friday’s mission, SpaceX will have launched 2,600 Starlink satellites so far, including spacecraft that have been taken out of service or suffered failures. More than 2,200 of those satellites are in orbit and operating this week, according to a list kept by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist who closely tracks spaceflight activity.
Read our mission preview story for more details.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1073.1)
PAYLOAD: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-15)
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
RELEASE DATE: May 14, 2022
LAUNCH TIME: 4:40:50 p.m. EDT (8:40:50 p.m. GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 80% chance of acceptable time; Low risk of high winds; Low risk of adverse conditions for booster recovery
BOOSTER RECOVERY: “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship east of Charleston, SC
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast
TARGET ORBIT: 189 by 197 miles (305 by 318 kilometers), 53.2 degree incline
- T+00:00: Takeoff
- T+01:12: Maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:34: First stage main engine shutdown (MECO)
- T+02:37: Floor separation
- T+02:44: Second stage engine ignition
- T+02:50: Fairing jettison
- T+06:23: First stage inlet combustion ignition (three engines)
- T+06:37: First floor entrance burnout shut down
- T+07:59: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:24: First stage landing
- T+08:50: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 1)
- T+45:29: Second stage restart
- T+45:31: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 2)
- T+54:32: Starlink satellite separation
- 154th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 162nd launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
- 1st launch of the Falcon 9 booster B1073
- Launch of the 134th Falcon 9 from the Space Coast of Florida
- Launch of the 86th Falcon 9 from pad 40
- 141st total launch from pad 40
- 67th flight of a new Falcon booster
- 46th dedicated launch of Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
- Launch of the 20th Falcon 9 in 2022
- 20th launch by SpaceX in 2022
- 19th orbital launch based at Cape Canaveral in 2022
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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.