A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped by SpaceX’s 46 Starlink broadband spacecraft recently took off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 9:44 am, flying in a clear blue sky. About nine minutes after takeoff, the first stage of the Falcon 9 returned to Earth for a vertical landing on SpaceX’s drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred kilometers off the coast of Florida. . It was the 100th landing of the Falcon 9 rocket for SpaceX and the company’s 107th overall landing, including those of the Falcon Heavy boosters. (The airline made its 100th overall landing in December.)
SpaceX has finished his webcast live before the satellite deployment due to the ground station’s lack of video links with satellites, he explained SpaceX Production Manager Jessie Anderson. Monday’s flight was the 11th launch and landing of this particular Falcon 9 first stage, Anderson said. This tied SpaceX’s reuse record, which was set by another Falcon 9 booster during a Starlink launch in December.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 on this flight, called Starlink 4-8, previously launched SpaceX’s Crew Demo-2 flight (the company’s first astronaut flight for NASA in 2020), as well as the Anasis-II satellite mission to South Korea, the CRS-21 space station cargo mission for NASA, the Transporter-1 and Transporter-3 ridesharing missions, and five different Starlink missions, SpaceX said.
The two halves of the rocket’s nose cone, or payload fairing, also made return trips to space during the flight, each flying on its third mission, Anderson explained. SpaceX had already launched three large batches of Starlink this year: two in January and one on February 3. The February 3 mission ran into serious problems, however, due to a solar flare, which triggered a geomagnetic storm here on Earth.
That storm increased atmospheric density, increasing drag on the newly launched Starlink satellites. As a result, up to 40 of the 49 spacecraft crashed to Earth, SpaceX representatives said.
SpaceX is apparently aiming for a higher orbit in which to release its new Starlink satellites on today’s flight, according to Spaceflight Now, which has reduced the number of satellites from 49 to 46. They will be deployed in a near-circular target orbit that will vary. between 325 and 337 kilometers at its highest and lowest points, Spaceflight Now reported.
The company intentionally deploys its large batches of Starlink satellites in low orbits so that they can fall back to Earth and burn in the atmosphere to avoid creating space debris if they malfunction in orbit. SpaceX has already launched about 2,100 Starlink satellites into orbit, with more than 200 fallen from orbit due to breakdown or decommissioning, according to Spaceflight Now. But the company is far from over. SpaceX has approval to launch 12,000 Starlink vehicles and has requested permission from an international regulator for up to another 30,000.
The company’s Starlink Internet satellite project aims to provide high-speed Internet access to customers anywhere on Earth, especially in underserved or extremely remote areas of the planet where Internet service is difficult to obtain. Monday’s launch was originally scheduled for Sunday, February 20, but SpaceX has postponed it by one day due to bad weather for rocket recovery operations. The successful launch and landing marked SpaceX’s seventh space mission of 2022 and the fourth dedicated to Starlink launches. It was the company’s 38th Starlink mission and 145th overall launch, Anderson said.