May 18, 2021, 12:54 p.m.
The US space company SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 from the LC-39A launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center on May 16 at 00:54 am Central European Summer Time. Instead of the usual 60 Starlink communication satellites, there were only 52 plus two small satellites from paying customers on board. At around 580 kilometers above the earth, the orbit reached was significantly higher than with normal Starlink launches.
The Falcon 9 takes off with 52 Starlink satellites and 2 Rideshare payloads on board.
(Bild: Webcast SpaceX)
The first stage B1058 was used on the flight, successfully completing its eighth mission within one year of its first launch as part of the manned Demo 2 mission to the ISS on May 30, 2020. The two halves of the payload fairing had also been used separately on one flight. It was SpaceX’s fourth launch in just 17 days, all with Starlink satellites as the main payload and all from the company’s two launch pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The start took place punctually, following a smooth countdown, and so the rocket, powered by nine Merlin 1D engines, took off into the slightly cloudy sky of Florida. About 160 seconds after take-off and at a speed of just under 7,800 km / h, the first and second stages were separated. Shortly afterwards, the second stage ignited and the payload fairing was thrown off. At T + 8:32 minutes, the first stage landed on the drone platform ?? Of Course I Still Love You ?? (an allusion to the “culture” cycle of the author Iain M. Banks, in whose novel “The Player of Games” a spaceship of the same name appears) in the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, the second stage continued to fire until the upper stage engine was switched off for the first time at T +8: 52 minutes. Around 46 minutes later, a second ignition took place over four seconds in order to adjust the orbit. Capella Space’s first payload, a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation satellite, was deployed 57 minutes and 10 seconds after launch.
At T +1: 00: 40 hours, the second passenger, the Tyvak-0130, was also dropped off. The 6U-Cubesat, developed by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has a miniature telescope on board that is to be tested for commercial applications.
The main payload, the 52 Starlink satellites, each weighing around 260 kilograms, of the company’s own SpaceX Internet satellite constellation, was then released into orbit at T +1: 38: 30 hours, from where they are brought to their final orbit position within with their internal electric thrusters the constellation will move. For the Falcon 9, it is already the 15th launch this year (the 118th overall, including a suborbital launch), all of which include first stages that have already been flown. Four of them alone with the first stage used here.
The next Falcon-9 launch is also unlikely to be long in coming and could take place on May 26th from launch pad LC-40 of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Video about the Starlink mission on YouTube:
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