CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A SpaceX The Falcon 9 rocket launched a new series of 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit late Monday (February 15), but failed to land on a floating platform at sea.
Two-phase Falcon 9 amplifier, topped by 60 broadband spacecraft, lifted from the 40 space launch complex here at Cape Canaveral Space Station at 10:59 p.m. EST (0359 GMT Feb. 16). About nine minutes later, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth to attempt its sixth landing on SpaceX’s drone “Of course I still love you” in the Atlantic Ocean, “but missed the target.
“We don’t seem to have landed our booster tonight on“ Of course I still love you, ”SpaceX production engineer Jessica Anderson said during comments on the live launch.“ It’s unfortunate that we failed to recover this booster, but our second phase is still always in nominal trajectory. “
SpaceX prefers to recover its phases of reusable Falcon 9 rockets, but the company has also repeatedly said that delivering payloads to orbit is always the primary mission.
Video: See how SpaceX Falcon 9 launches 60 Starlink satellites
Related: SpaceX’s satellite megacontellation Starlink in photos
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One of SpaceX’s most common flyers has launched this latest Starlink mission into orbit. The amplifier, named B1059, previously transferred two different SpaceX Dragon cargo supply missions to the International Space Station – CRS-19 in December 2019 and CRS-20 in March 2020 – Starlink mission last June, Earth observation satellite to Argentina (SAOCOM -1B in August 2020) and a spy satellite for the US government as part of the NROL-108 mission in December.
Tonight’s launch was the first of two planned Starlink stops within a week; another 60 satellites are scheduled to take off early Wednesday (February 17th) on the second Falcon 9. The rapid succession was due to the fact that SpaceX recently had to relocate around planned Starlink missions because both weather and hardware issues were presented. little challenge.
This mission, called Starlink 19, moved forward after the 18th StarLink SpaceX mission exploded on February 4th. Both flights skipped Starlink 17, which was originally scheduled to launch on February 1st. It is scheduled to fly on one of SpaceX flyers ’two frequent record-breaking flyers, the B1049, the mission has been delayed several times and is now expected to explode just after midnight on February 17th.
During initial mission planning, SpaceX aimed to launch two Starlink missions a few hours apart – the first for the space coast since 1966, when the Gemini rocket followed the Atlas of Agena just 99 minutes later. In the end, no double missions took place, but with an unprecedented move for the era of commercial space flights, the Eastern Range (the agency that oversees the launch along the East Coast) approved two missions for fast sequential launch.
This is a feat we may see later, especially as more and more vendors are launching and more and more startups are exploding from Florida. Last year saw a record 31 launches for that year, and 2021 could be even more hectic as the 45th space wing prepares for at least 40 missions.
Related: See the evolution of SpaceX rockets in the pictures
Double the launches
Originally scheduled for launch on Sunday night, SpaceX had to stop due to bad weather at the launch site. Thunderstorms rolled through Florida last weekend, preventing takeoff.
Conditions improved on Monday and the Falcon 9 was able to fly, marking the fifth launch of the year for SpaceX and allowing the company to look forward to its next mission. Another series of Starlink satellites should explode from SpaceX’s second launch site in Florida on Fall 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here.
The mission was also the 108th total summer vacation of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9. That would have marked the 75th rocket landing for the company had Falcon 9 stopped its touch.
To recover the feedback boosters, SpaceX uses two massive floating landing platforms – “Of course I still love you” and “Just read the instructions” – in addition to their landing pads, which allow the company to launch (and crash) multiple rockets. Usually drones see most of the action because it takes more fuel reserves to land back into the land than it would land at sea.
The version of the Falcon 9 we see today is a fictional version of its predecessors, capable of flying multiple times, with only minor rearrangements between them. This is due to a series of Falcon 9 upgrades received in 2018, including a more robust thermal protection system, titanium grilles and a more durable intermediate phase – which facilitate reuse.
As such, this fleet of more capable rockets has allowed SpaceX to fly in multiple missions. The company launched a record 26 times in 2020, with 22 of those flights on veteran rockets.
The company wants to surpass that record in 2021, because it hopes to launch at least 40 rockets between its launch facilities in California and Florida.
Building a mega-constellation
With tonight’s launch success, SpaceX now has more than 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit. And there are many more launches coming; SpaceX’s initial Starlink constellation will consist of 1,440 satellites, and the company has sought approval for it Tens of thousands more.
The company has launched its massive constellation, which exceeds the number of other constellations currently in orbit, with the overarching goal of connecting the world.
To that end, SpaceX has designed a fleet of flat-panel broadband satellites that will fly above Earth, providing users around the world with Internet coverage.
Tonight’s flight comes just days after SpaceX began offering pre-orders to the public. Last week, the company opened its website to potential customers on a first-come, first-served basis, while the company is conducting an extensive international and domestic beta phase.
Prospective users can order equipment and sign up for the service, which could take six months or more to become available, the website said.
SpaceX began a “better than nothing” beta phase of testing in 2020, as the company allowed its employees to develop satellite service through all the steps.
Company founder and CEO Elon Musk said there should be between 500-800 Starlink satellites in orbit before coverage could start coming out. After that milestone was reached, the company began testing its new service.
Early employee reports indicated that the service was working and even allowed streaming of multiple high-resolution programs simultaneously. Shortly thereafter, SpaceX invited users to begin testing its service, continuing to launch more and more satellites.
The company was given permission to launch its customer service in the UK earlier this year, and even caught its first Canadian customer in December last December.
The first nation of Pikangikum could use the service to connect its members and provide access to educational programs, telemedicine and many others.
A very big year of SpaceX: Astronaut launches, Starship tests and more
GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief, two networked SpaceX ships are also located in the Atlantic. The dynamic duo will recover the cone of the rocket’s nose (otherwise known as payload formwork) after the two pieces return to Earth.
Equipped with navigation software and special parachutes, the two halves of the protective shell will be taken back to Earth and will most likely be taken out of the water after spraying.
Occasionally SpaceX catches falling formwork in the air, but that depends on winds and weather. Recovery efforts are usually announced by SpaceX 45 minutes after booting.
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