Days after a pair of Falcon 9 rockets launched 106 Starlink satellites in less than 23 hours, SpaceX has already lifted another Falcon 9 rocket vertically for another Starlink mission – expected to be the fourth this month.
This mission – Starlink 4-18 – will see SpaceX launch another batch of 53 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) from pad LC-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which supported a different Starlink launch (4 -17) barely 11 days before . Weather for Wednesday’s launch at 6:20 a.m. EDT (10:20 a.m. UTC) is expected to be 80% favorable, boding well for an on-time liftoff.
SpaceX says the former Falcon Heavy side booster B1052 – converted to a Falcon 9 booster in late 2021 – will launch for the fifth time in support of Starlink 4-18. In an interesting twist and demonstration of SpaceX’s confidence in both this conversion process and the recovery of the Falcon booster, Next Spaceflight recently reported that B1052 will be converted back to a Falcon Heavy side booster and will join fellow side booster B1053 – unused since June 2019 – to launch a large commercial geostationary satellite known as ViaSat-3 Americas as early as September 2022.
As is now routine, Starlink 4-18’s Falcon fairing will likely be flight-tested as well. Only the Falcon 9 expendable upper stage, a few Starlink payload adapter components, and the Starlink satellites themselves will be new, which has allowed SpaceX to achieve unprecedented affordability and such low marginal launch costs. only $15 million. Even including a conservative cost estimate of $500,000-$1M per Starlink V1.5 satellite, the total marginal cost of a modern Starlink launch is likely less than $30-45M, while competitors like OneWeb probably paid over $50 million for launch service alone.
Amazon’s Starlink competitor “Project Kuiper” is even worse off after penning an unprecedented series of multibillion-dollar contracts that will likely guarantee Launch Services alone will cost at least $100-125 million a year. assignment.
Starlink 4-18 will be SpaceX’s 46th dedicated launch of operational Starlink satellites and will bring the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to around 2,370 if all goes well. Tune in below around 6:10 a.m. EDT (10:10 a.m. UTC) to watch the launch live.