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SpaceX passes 2,500 satellites launched for Starlink internet network – Spaceflight Now

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket climbs into the sky over Vandenberg Area Power Base to start the Starlink Four-13 mission. Credit score: Gene Blevins / LA Every day Information

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket Friday afternoon from California’s Central Coast with one other batch 53 Starlink web satellites, pushing the overall variety of spacecraft launched within the community above 2,500, together with testbeds and prototypes already cycled out of the fleet.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at three:07:50 p.m. PDT (6:07:50 p.m. EDT: 2207:50 GMT) Friday from Vandenberg Area Power Base, a navy spaceport between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

With winds at Vandenberg close to the Falcon 9’s launch restrict, the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket powered by way of a sunny sky with 9 Merlin engines throttling as much as 1.7 million kilos of thrust.

Heading south-southeast, the kerosene-burning engines shut off two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, then the booster disconnected from the Falcon 9 second stage. The second stage’s single engine lit to speed up the 53 Starlink satellites into orbit, whereas the booster descended to a propulsive touchdown on SpaceX’s floating drone ship “Of Course I Nonetheless Love You” within the Pacific Ocean.

The touchdown marked the top of the fifth flight for this booster — tail quantity B1063 — because the Falcon 9’s higher stage adopted a coast-hugging trajectory alongside Southern California and Baja California.

The Falcon 9’s second stage fired its engine two occasions to position the flat-packed Starlink satellites right into a near-circular orbit averaging about 193 miles (310 kilometers) above Earth, at an inclination of 53.2 levels to the equator.

SpaceX’s launch staff confirmed the rocket positioned the satellites into the anticipated orbit, then deployed the Starlink spacecraft about 62 minutes after liftoff. Retention rods launched from the Falcon 9’s second stage to permit the Starlink satellites, every greater than a quarter-ton, to fly free from the rocket.

This view of the Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Area Power Base combines 22 stacked photos to trace the trajectory of the rocket heading south-southeast with 53 Starlink web satellites. Credit score: William G. Hartenstein

The mission was the 19th Falcon 9 launch of the yr, and the 45th SpaceX mission primarily devoted to deploying satellites for the Starlink web community.

The launch from Vandenberg raised the overall variety of Starlink satellites launched to greater than 2,547 spacecraft. That quantity contains prototypes, failed satellites, and decommissioned spacecraft not within the constellation.

Greater than 2,200 Starlink satellites are at the moment in orbit and dealing, in keeping with an evaluation by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist who tracks spaceflight exercise. That’s about half of SpaceX’s deliberate first-generation community of Four,408 Starlink satellites.

The Four,400 satellites might be unfold amongst 5 completely different orbital “shells” at completely different altitudes and inclinations. SpaceX, based and led by Elon Musk, has signaled it will definitely intends to launch as many as 42,000 satellites.

The community beams high-speed, low-latency web alerts around the globe, reaching customers, underserved communities, and different potential customers just like the U.S. navy. SpaceX says the Starlink community is now accessible to customers in 32 nations.

After separation from the Falcon 9 rocket, the Starlink satellites had been programmed to unfurl photo voltaic panels and activate krypton-fueled ion thrusters to start elevating their orbits to an operational altitude of 335 miles (540 kilometers).

Credit score: Spaceflight Now

The mission from California on Friday was to be adopted by one other Falcon 9 launch Saturday from Cape Canaveral. The launch from Florida will carry one other 53 Starlink web satellites into orbit.

Liftoff of SpaceX’s 20th mission of the yr is about for Four:40:50 p.m. EDT (2040:50 GMT) from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Area Power Station. The Falcon 9, with a model new first stage, will head northeast from the Florida launch base to ship its Starlink payloads to the identical altitude and inclination as Friday’s flight.

The back-to-back launches proceed SpaceX’s blistering launch cadence in 2022. With one other launch Saturday, SpaceX may have logged seven Falcon 9 missions in lower than a month.

Email the writer.

Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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