Autor Wątek: [AS]SpaceX Readies First Batch of Starlink Satellites for Wednesday Night Launch  (Przeczytany 3943 razy)

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SpaceX launches 58 Starlink satellites, three Planet SkySats on Falcon 9
by Caleb Henry — June 13, 2020


SpaceX deployed three SkySats for Planet before deploying 58 Starlink satellites, all in low Earth orbit. Credit: SpaceX webcast.

WASHINGTON — SpaceX completed its ninth bulk Starlink launch June 13, a mission that included a rideshare customer for the first time.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:21 a.m. Eastern, carrying 58 Starlink broadband satellites instead of the usual 60. The rocket carried slightly fewer Starlink satellites to make room for three remote-sensing SkySat satellites for Planet.

SpaceX deployed the SkySat satellites first, about 13 minutes after liftoff, followed by the Starlink satellites about 39 minutes after liftoff.

The mission used a Falcon 9 booster that flew two cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA, the last being CRS-20 in March. The rocket featured a previously flown payload fairing, with one half recovered from the Jcsat-18/Kacific-1 satellite mission in December, and the other from SpaceX’s third Starlink mission, which took place in January.

SpaceX recovered the rocket’s first-stage for a third time, landing the booster on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean.

The launch marks the beginning of the rideshare program SpaceX announced in August 2019, offering regular opportunities for smallsat operators to hitch rides on Starlink missions.

SpaceX Lead Manufacturing Engineer Jessie Anderson said the launch contract covering Planet’s three SkySat satellites was signed six months ago. Planet’s Saturday launch, and a second Starlink rideshare scheduled for July will complete the operator’s constellation of 21 SkySats, a fleet that complements Planet’s larger constellation of Dove cubesats.

Once all 21 SkySats are in orbit, Planet says it will be able to image locations an average of seven times a day, with some locations seeing up to 12 revisits a day, at 50-centimeter resolution. Planet’s cubesats collect imagery in 3-5 meter resolution.

Another Earth-observation company, BlackSky, said in a recent interview that it has two satellites scheduled to launch June 24 on a Starlink rideshare mission. Barring schedule slips, that would be three Starlink launches in June, which would be the highest number of Starlink launches conducted in a month.

SpaceX was targeting two Starlink launches a month throughout 2020, but has averaged one Starlink launch a month so far. The company has launched 540 Starlink satellites to date, counting two prototypes, out of a planned system comprising several thousand.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted in late April that Starlink would begin a private beta service in about three months, and a public beta in six months. The company expects to start partial service over the U.S. and Canada late this year, followed by global coverage in 2021. SpaceX updated its Starlink website June 12 to allow prospective customers to sign up for news and service availability announcements.


Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-launches-58-starlink-satellites-three-planet-skysats-on-falcon-9/

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Odp: [SN] SpaceX launches Starlink and BlackSky satellites
« Odpowiedź #31 dnia: Sierpień 07, 2020, 22:40 »
SpaceX launches Starlink and BlackSky satellites
by Jeff Foust — August 7, 2020


A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off Aug. 7 on the company's tenth Starlink mission, which also carried two BlackSky imaging satellites. Credit: SpaceX webcast

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched the latest set of the company’s Starlink satellites, along with two BlackSky imaging satellites, Aug. 7 after weeks of delays.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 1:12 a.m. Eastern. After a pair of burns, the upper stage deployed BlackSky’s Global-7 satellite nearly 62 minutes after launch, followed by the Global-8 satellite five minutes later. The primary payload, 57 Starlink satellites deployed 93 minutes after launch.

The mission was significantly longer than other recent Starlink launches, which have deployed Starlink satellites as little as 15 minutes after liftoff. The company explained on its webcast of the launch that it performed a brief second burn of the upper stage 45 minutes after liftoff to circularize the orbit for the BlackSky satellites.

The rocket’s first stage, making its fifth flight, landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. The stage first flew on the Demo-1 uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in March 2019, then launched the three Radarsat Constellation Mission satellites in June 2019 and Starlink missions in January and April.

SpaceX also deployed two boats to attempt to capture the payload fairing halves from the launch. The company, though, said during the launch webcast that effort was unsuccessful.

This launch was originally scheduled for late June but postponed several times because of poor weather and technical issues. The company never explained the technical issues that delayed those launch attempts, saying only it needed “additional time for pre-launch checkouts” or “to allow more time for checkouts,” according to tweets by the company on June 26 and July 11, respectively.

During the webcast, John Insprucker, principal integration engineer at SpaceX, said the delays were not caused by the rocket itself. “Through all of this, Falcon 9 has been trouble-free, as the delays have been weather-related and payload-related,” he said. He did not disclose if the payload problems were with the Starlink or BlackSky satellites.

The launch is the tenth SpaceX Starlink mission, placing 595 Starlink satellites into orbit, excluding two experimental “Tintin” satellites launched in February 2018. SpaceX ultimately plans a constellation of thousands of Starlink satellites to provide broadband internet access, and is preparing a beta test of the service to customers in parts of North America later this year.

The large number of Starlink satellites has raised concern among astronomers about interference with their observations. In an effort to reduce their brightness, SpaceX equipped one satellite on a Starlink mission in June with visors to block sunlight from reflecting off the spacecraft. While that “VisorSat” is still reaching its operational orbit, SpaceX said all 57 Starlink satellites on this latest launch are equipped with visors.

The two BlackSky satellites on this launch join four others launched in 2018 and 2019. The company hopes to have 16 of the satellites, which provide high-resolution imagery, in orbit by early 2021.


Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-launches-starlink-and-blacksky-satellites/

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Odp: [SN] Falcon 9 reaches new reusability record during Starlink, SkySat launch
« Odpowiedź #32 dnia: Sierpień 20, 2020, 02:33 »
Falcon 9 reaches new reusability record during Starlink, SkySat launch
by Caleb Henry — August 18, 2020


SpaceX landed the same Falcon 9 booster for a sixth time Aug. 18, setting a new record for the rocket. Credit: SpaceX webcast

WASHINGTON — SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket Aug. 18 on a mission that reused the same first-stage booster for a sixth time, setting a record for Falcon 9 booster reuse.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 10:31 a.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying 58 small broadband satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, and three SkySat optical imaging satellites for Planet.

Planet’s SkySats separated from the rocket about 13 minutes after liftoff, followed by the Starlink satellites 46 minutes after liftoff. The first-stage booster landed on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” in the Atlantic Ocean.

The launch marks the first time SpaceX has flown the same first-stage booster six times. The company first used this particular first stage in September 2018 to launch the Telstar-18 Vantage satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. The booster flew again in January 2019, carrying 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites to low Earth orbit, and later conducted three separate Starlink launches, with the most recent occurring in June 2020.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has described the current Falcon 9 first-stage booster as capable of at least 10 flights, with refurbishment possibly extending the number of flights to 100. The company builds a new upper stage for each launch.

SpaceX has tested the limits of Falcon 9 reuse through Starlink missions, having launched its own Starlink satellites on the first-ever fourth flight and fifth flight of a rocket booster. The company’s Aug. 18 launch also featured previously flown payload fairing halves that have since been recovered again — one by the boat “Ms. Tree,” and the other via a soft water landing.

SpaceX has now launched 653 Starlink satellites, including two prototypes. It is not clear, however, how many Starlink satellites launched so far will provide service when SpaceX starts offering internet connections late this year.

SpaceX told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission June 23 that nine Starlink satellites had “suffered diminished maneuvering capability at an altitude above injection,” and that another five had already been deorbited “either to test the de-orbit process or because the satellite was not performing optimally.”

Musk also tweeted in April that the company was deorbiting its two TinTin prototype satellites.

SpaceX has submitted paperwork for a constellation of up to 42,000 Starlink satellites, but has described the constellation as “economically viable” at around 1,000 satellites.

While Starlink will need many more satellites before providing service, the launch completed Planet’s constellation of 21 SkySats.

The SkySat satellites provide imagery at 50 centimeter resolution, complementing Planet’s larger fleet of Dove cubesats that provide 3-5 meter resolution imagery.

Mike Safyan, Planet vice president of launch, said SpaceX’s rideshare program was better for Planet than relying on vehicles designed specifically for smallsats.

“[W]e were able to get these satellites launched much faster compared to a dedicated launch,” he wrote in an Aug. 14 blog post.

Planet launched its last six SkySats in groups of three on Falcon 9 launches. Splitting the satellites into two groups helps speed their service start by shortening the time needed for orbital plane shifts with onboard propulsion, “all of which results in Planet’s customers benefiting from these enhanced products much sooner,” Safyan said.


Source: https://spacenews.com/falcon-9-reaches-new-reusability-record-during-starlink-skysat-launch/

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Odp: [SN] Falcon 9 launch adds 60 Starlink satellites to orbit as constellation
« Odpowiedź #33 dnia: Wrzesień 03, 2020, 18:06 »
Falcon 9 launch adds 60 Starlink satellites to orbit as constellation beta testing continues
by Caleb Henry — September 3, 2020 [SN]


SpaceX has now launched 713 Starlink satellites, including prototypes, though the company is deorbiting some early models. Credit: SpaceX webcast.

WASHINGTON — SpaceX on Sept. 3 launched 60 Starlink internet satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket while disclosing early testing results from the constellation for which it has now launched 713 satellites.

Falcon 9 lifted off at 8:46 a.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and deployed the latest batch of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit 15 minutes later.

The rocket’s reusable first-stage booster landed on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” located in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the booster’s second flight, following a June GPS-3 launch for the U.S. Space Force.

SpaceX plans to roll out a public beta of Starlink internet service later this year, but is for now testing the service with employees, Kate Tice, senior certification engineer at SpaceX, said during the launch webcast.

That testing demonstrated download speeds above 100 megabits per second, and “super low latency,” she said, though she did not quantify the latency.

“Our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games, and our download speeds are fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once and still have bandwidth to spare,” Tice said.

The Starlink megaconstellation, which could number 12,000 or even 42,000 satellites, remains “very much a work in progress,” she said. “Over time, we will continue to add features to unlock the full capability of that network.”

One new feature some Starlink satellites now have is inter-satellite links — a component SpaceX had said Starlink would have but for which it had not given an introduction date.

SpaceX completed a test with two satellites equipped with the crosslinks, which the company refers to as “space lasers.”

“With these space lasers, the Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data,” Tice said. “Once these space lasers are fully deployed, Starlink will be one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world.”

Inter-satellite links help lower latency, which could improve SpaceX’s odds of winning a share of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, meant to subsidize high-speed internet in the United States. SpaceX told the FCC in February that Starlink would have less than 50 milliseconds of signal lag.

SpaceX is already starting to deorbit older Starlink satellites that lack features added on later iterations. In the past 60 days, 10 Starlink satellites have deorbited — eight from bulk launches, plus the two TinTin prototypes — according to Celestrack, a service from Analytical Graphics Inc.

Another four Starlink satellites launched in 2019 have orbits below 200 kilometers, indicating they are imminently close to burning up in Earth’s atmosphere and deorbiting, T.S. Kelso, senior research astrodynamicist at AGI, told SpaceNews by email.

SpaceX has completed 16 launches in 2020, all using Falcon 9 rockets. Of those launches, 10 were for its own Starlink constellation.


Source: https://spacenews.com/falcon-9-launch-adds-60-starlink-satellites-to-orbit-as-constellation-beta-testing-continues/

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Odp: [SN] Falcon 9 launch adds 60 Starlink satellites to orbit as constellation
« Odpowiedź #33 dnia: Wrzesień 03, 2020, 18:06 »

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Odp: [SN] SpaceX launches Starlink satellites as it deorbits original ones
« Odpowiedź #34 dnia: Październik 19, 2020, 02:37 »
SpaceX launches Starlink satellites as it deorbits original ones
by Jeff Foust — October 6, 2020 [SN]


A Falcon 9 carrying 60 Starlink satellites lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Oct. 6. Credit: SpaceX webcast

WASHINGTON — As SpaceX launches a new batch of Starlink satellites, the company is quietly deorbiting the original set of satellites less than 18 months after launch.

A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 7:29 a.m. Eastern Oct. 6. The launch suffered a series of delays because of poor weather and one abort at T-18 seconds Oct. 1 because of “out-of-family” data from a ground sensor.

The rocket’s payload of 60 Starlink satellites deployed from the upper stage 61 minutes after liftoff, nearly 20 minutes after a brief second burn of the upper stage to circularize its orbit, a maneuver SpaceX said is designed to speed up the process of moving the satellites into their final orbits. The Falcon 9 first stage, making its third flight, successfully landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

With this launch, SpaceX has now launched 775 Starlink satellites, counting two prototypes launched in early 2018. However, 47 of those satellites have since reentered, either through deliberate maneuvers or natural decay, according to data maintained by astronomer and spaceflight analyst Jonathan McDowell.

The bulk of those deorbited satellites are from the initial group of 60 “v0.9” Starlink satellites launched in May 2019. Through Oct. 4, 39 of those satellites have deorbited, all but two of which since early August. The rate of deorbiting picked up in late August, with 32 satellites deorbiting since Aug. 29.

SpaceX has not publicly disclosed why it is deorbiting the v0.9 Starlink satellites. The company said in January it would carry out a “controlled de-orbit of several first iteration Starlink satellites,” citing improvements in the communications payload in subsequent Starlink satellites.

Critics of Starlink, though, have claimed the deorbiting satellites are evidence of reliability problems. In a Sept. 17 filing with the Federal Communications Commission, Viasat claimed that Starlink satellites had an in-orbit failure rate of 7%, far higher than SpaceX’s claims of a failure rate of less than 1%. “And an actual failure rate this high, manifesting after such a small fraction of a Starlink satellite’s design life has passed, optimistically implies a staggering 22% failure rate over the duration of the Starlink mission,” the company argued (emphasis in original.)

Viasat based that conclusion in part on McDowell’s data, prompting a rebuttal from him in a Sept. 21 FCC filing. He argued Viasat inflated the estimated failure rate of Starlink satellites by including the deorbited v0.9 satellites. “To include the deliberate retirement of the V0.9 satellites as failures, which Viasat appear to be doing, does not seem remotely justifiable to me,” he wrote.

“Viasat believes that data about all Starlink failures are relevant,” the company said in a Sept. 24 filing responding to McDowell. That includes, the company said, the v0.9 Starlink satellites being deorbited. “Viasat is not aware of any valid basis for treating the v0.9 Starlink satellites (the first 60) as ‘early prototypes’ and thus somehow ‘unrepresentative’ of the Starlink system.”

Those satellites, Viasat said, were treated as “an integral part” of the Starlink system in a SpaceX report to the FCC in 2019. “Moreover, for the purpose of evaluating whether SpaceX is achieving the reliability level that it represented to the Commission it would achieve, Viasat believes that all failures—including failures of satellites that have been disposed of—are relevant.”

SpaceX, in its own response to Viasat’s filings submitted to the FCC Sept. 29, said that it had reported no failures in the last 233 Starlink satellites launched at the time of the filing.

“Viasat steadfastly refuses to allow facts to get in the way of the story it wishes were true,” the company wrote. “SpaceX continues to work to improve the performance and reliability of its vehicles.” That filing, though, did not discuss why the company was deorbiting its v0.9 Starlink satellites.


Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-launches-starlink-satellites-as-it-deorbits-original-ones/

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Odp: [SN] SpaceX launches Starlink satellites as it deorbits original ones
« Odpowiedź #35 dnia: Październik 21, 2020, 21:37 »
Falcon 9 investigation ongoing as SpaceX continues Starlink launches
by Jeff Foust — October 18, 2020[SN]


A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off Oct. 18 carrying 60 Starlink satellites. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched another set of Starlink satellites Oct. 18 as the investigation into another Falcon 9 launch abort more than two weeks ago continues.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 8:25 a.m. Eastern. The rocket’s upper stage deployed the payload of 60 Starlink satellites 63 minutes after liftoff. The rocket’s first stage, making its sixth launch, landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

With this launch, SpaceX has now placed 835 Starlink satellites into orbit. However, more than 50 of those satellites have since reentered, including 45 of the 60 “v0.9” Starlink satellites launched in May 2019 and the first two “Tintin” prototypes launched in February 2018.

Starlink is currently in a private beta test of its broadband internet system, and the company has said it plans to offer a more public beta test before the end of the year. In both the launch webcast as well as recent filings with the Federal Communications Commission, the company has highlighted early users of the system, such as the emergency management department in the state of Washington, which used Starlink to provide connectivity during recent wildfires in the state, as well as the Hoh tribe in the state, which previously had no broadband access because of its remote location.

The launch is the second Starlink mission in less than two weeks as SpaceX seeks to maintain a rate of roughly two Starlink launches a month to build out the constellation. Those launches have moved ahead while another Falcon 9, carrying a GPS 3 navigation satellite for the U.S. Space Force, remains grounded after a last-second abort Oct. 2 blamed on a problem with gas generators in the rocket’s first-stage engines.

That scrub led NASA to postpone a Falcon 9 launch of the Crew-1 commercial crew mission, which had been scheduled for Oct. 31. NASA announced Oct. 10 it was postponing the launch to the first half of November while the investigation into the scrub continues.

NASA has not issued any updates on the status of the Crew-1 launch, although one NASA webpage lists a launch of no earlier than Nov. 11. “That investigation is ongoing,” Tim Dunn of NASA’s Launch Services Program said at an Oct. 16 briefing about the scheduled Nov. 10 launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean science satellite, which will also use a Falcon 9.

Dunn said that there has been a “tremendous amount of testing” since the GPS 3 launch scrub, including taking the Merlin engines from that rocket back to SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas, test site for further study. That investigation has involved NASA and Space Force personnel working with SpaceX.

He did not elaborate, though, on the specific problem with the engines or when either the GPS 3 or Crew-1 missions might launch. “We’ve learned a lot. There’s going to be some hardware implications as we move forward, depending on the engines installed on various rockets,” he said.

However, he did not expect the engine issue to delay the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch. “As of today, we have a path forward that allows us to do whatever necessary rework may be required and still maintain that 10 November launch date.”


Source: https://spacenews.com/falcon-9-investigation-ongoing-as-spacex-continues-starlink-launches/
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Odp: [SN] SpaceX launches Starlink satellites as it deorbits original ones
« Odpowiedź #36 dnia: Październik 25, 2020, 15:48 »
SpaceX reaches 100 successful launches with Starlink mission
by Jeff Foust — October 24, 2020[SN]
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A set of 60 Starlink satellites deploys from the upper stage of a Falcon 9 rocket during an Oct. 24 launch. Credit: SpaceX webcast

WASHINGTON — SpaceX launched another set of Starlink satellites Oct. 24, marking the 100th time the company has placed payloads into orbit.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:31 a.m. Eastern. The rocket’s upper stage deployed the payload of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit 63 minutes after liftoff. The first stage, making its third flight, landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

This was the 100th successful launch in the company’s history. That total includes 95 Falcon 9, three Falcon Heavy and two Falcon 1 launches. The company also suffered three Falcon 1 launch failures and one Falcon 9 launch failure; another Falcon 9 was destroyed in 2016 during preparations for a static-fire test.

The launch was the third Starlink mission in less than two weeks, after Falcon 9 launches Oct. 6 and Oct. 18 that each carried 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The company has now launched 895 Starlink satellites, 55 of which have reentered either because of passive orbital decay or by being actively deorbited.

SpaceX has boasted in filings with the Federal Communications Commission of the high reliability of the Starlink satellites. That included an Oct. 15 filing about an ex parte meeting between SpaceX and FCC staff where the company noted “the successful launch and operation of nearly 300 additional satellites without a failure” since an earlier report filed with the FCC.

That streak, though, may have been broken on the previous launch. Satellite observers noted that one of the satellites on the Oct. 18 launch, identified as Starlink-1819, was not raising its orbit like the other 59. Tracking data showed that satellite’s orbit was instead decaying, suggesting it had malfunctioned.

SpaceX and its competitors have debated the reliability of Starlink satellites in a series of FCC filings in recent weeks. Viasat has argued that the failure rate of Starlink satellites is far higher than what SpaceX has promised, although the company made that argument in part on the apparent deliberate deorbiting of the original 60 “v0.9” Starlink satellites launched in May 2019.

The recent surge in Starlink launches is taking place as two other Falcon 9 missions remain on hold. The last-second scrub of a Falcon 9 launch of a GPS 3 satellite Oct. 2 has yet to be rescheduled, and the investigation into the gas generator problem that caused the scrub led NASA to postpone the Falcon 9 launch of the Crew-1 commercial crew mission, which had been scheduled for Oct. 31.

The Crew-1 launch remains on hold. In a series of tweets Oct. 21, Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said investigators were making “good progress” on understanding the engine issue, but that they were not ready to report the cause of the problem.

She did note that SpaceX will replace one Merlin engine on both the booster that will be used for the Crew-1 mission and the booster for the launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean science satellite, scheduled for Nov. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch remains on schedule for that launch even with the engine swap, she said.

The earliest Crew-1 would launch is mid-November, Lueders said. “We will want a few days between Sentinel-6 and Crew-1 to complete data reviews and check performance. Most importantly, we will fly all our missions when we are ready.


Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-reaches-100-successful-launches-with-starlink-mission/
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SpaceX sets new Falcon 9 reuse milestone on Starlink launch
by Jeff Foust — November 24, 2020 [SN]


A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a set of 60 Starlink satellites Nov. 24 on the 100th flight of the Falcon 9, and the seventh of this particular first stage. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — SpaceX set a new milestone in Falcon 9 reuse with the latest Starlink satellite launch Nov. 24 as the company seeks permission to deploy Starlink satellites into a new orbit.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:13 p.m. Eastern. The rocket’s upper stage released its payload of 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit about 15 minutes later.

The rocket’s first stage landed on a droneship in the Atlantic, completing its record-setting seventh launch. The stage first flew in September 2018 launching the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite, followed by the final Iridium mission in January 2019. The rocket then launched four Starlink missions starting in May 2019, most recently Aug. 18.

The launch was also the 100th overall for the Falcon 9, a total that includes a June 2015 launch failure but not the destruction of another on the pad during preparations for a static-fire test in September 2016.

SpaceX has now launched 955 Starlink satellites, of which 895 are in orbit. The company has started a beta test of the broadband internet service provided by those satellites in the northern U.S. and southern Canada. During the webcast of this launch, the company said it would expand that beta test “in a notable way” in late January or early February.

To date SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites into orbits at an inclination of 53 degrees, maximizing coverage over mid-latitude regions but excluding higher latitudes, including Alaska, northern Canada and northern Europe. The company’s original authorization from the Federal Communications Commission called for other satellites at higher orbits and inclinations, but the company filed a proposed modification in April that would lower all the satellites into orbits between 540 and 570 kilometers, including those in high-inclination orbits.

In a Nov. 17 filing with the FCC, SpaceX sought permission to start launching satellites into sun-synchronous orbit. It requested permission to launch 58 satellites into one of six orbital planes at an inclination of 97.6 degrees as soon as December, arguing that doing so would allow the company to begin to provide broadband service in rural Alaska.

“SpaceX submits this request now because it has an opportunity for a polar launch in December that could be used to initiate its service to some of the most remote regions of the country,” the company stated in the filing, arguing that “launching to polar orbits will enable SpaceX to bring the same high-quality broadband service to the most remote areas of Alaska that other Americans have come to depend upon, especially as the pandemic limits opportunities for in-person contact.”

The company didn’t elaborate on the details of this launch opportunity, but claimed that its request was justified because it had resolved a concern with Amazon about a potential conflict with that company’s proposed Project Kuiper constellation. SpaceX agreed to tighten the orbital tolerances on the Starlink satellites at 570 kilometers such that they would not fly higher than 580 kilometers, avoiding Kuiper satellites at 590 kilometers.

Another satellite operator, though, objected to SpaceX’s proposal. “But commercial expediency is hardly a valid reason for the Commission to bypass the requirements of the Communications Act and grant an application prematurely, in the face of significant doubts as to whether SpaceX has met the public interest standard,” countered Viasat in a Nov. 19 FCC filing.

Viasat, which has criticized the reliability of Starlink satellites in earlier filings, again raised concerns about premature failures of Starlink satellites. It noted there was no evidence the December launch opportunity was the only one for those satellites, particularly since SpaceX controls the launches.

“The Commission should balk at SpaceX’s request to provide it with additional authority that it does not yet need when doing so could endanger orbital safety,” it stated. The FCC has yet to act on SpaceX’s request for the polar launch.


Source: https://spacenews.com/spacex-sets-new-falcon-9-reuse-milestone-on-starlink-launch/

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