Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Starlink 4-22 mission launched SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites. follow us on Twitter.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 10:20 a.m. EDT (1420 GMT) Sunday along with 53 other Starlink internet satellites. The mission marks SpaceX’s fourth launch in 10 days and SpaceX’s 31st launch in 2022, tying the record number of Falcon 9 missions in a calendar year.
The Falcon 9 booster landed on SpaceX’s drone stationed in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral.
The rocket headed northeast from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, aiming to deliver the Broadband Relay Stations flat to an orbit between 144 miles and 210 miles in altitude ( 232 by 338 kilometres). Deployment of the 53 flat satellites from the upper stage of Falcon 9 occurred approximately 15 minutes after liftoff.
With Sunday’s mission, designated Starlink 4-22, SpaceX launched 2,858 Starlink internet satellites, including prototypes and test units that are no longer in service. The launch Thursday marked the 51st SpaceX mission primarily dedicated to carrying Starlink internet satellites into orbit.
Stationed inside a firing suite at a launch control center just south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, the SpaceX launch team began loading propellants with kerosene and super chilled and densified liquid oxygen in the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 vehicle at T-minus 35 minutes.
Pressurized helium also flowed into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. During the last seven minutes before liftoff, the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines were thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “cooling down.” Falcon 9’s range guidance and safety systems were also configured for launch.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket directed its 1.7 million pounds of thrust – produced by nine Merlin engines – to head northeast over the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket exceeded the speed of sound in about a minute, then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The booster stage emerged from the Falcon 9 upper stage, then fired pulses from cold gas drive thrusters and extended titanium grid fins to help bring the vehicle back into the atmosphere .
Two brake burns slowed the rocket to land on the “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship about 400 miles (650 kilometers) around eight and a half minutes after liftoff.
The booster – tail number B1051 – which flew on Sunday is one of the oldest in SpaceX’s fleet of reusable rockets. It debuted in March 2019 with the first unmanned test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Since then, the booster has launched Canada’s Constellation Radarsat mission, SiriusXM’s SXM 7 radio broadcast satellite, and nine Starlink missions.
With Sunday’s mission, B1051 became the third booster in SpaceX’s inventory to reach the 13-flight milestone. SpaceX has certified the Falcon 9 boosters for at least 15 missions, an extension of the original certification of 10 flights.
The first-stage landing during Sunday’s mission came moments after the Falcon 9’s second-stage engine shut down to put the Starlink satellites into orbit. The separation of the 53 spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, was confirmed at T+plus 15 minutes, 28 seconds.
Retention rods released from the Starlink payload stack, allowing flat-packed satellites to fly freely from the Falcon 9 upper stage into orbit. The 53 spacecraft will deploy solar arrays and go through automated activation stages, then use krypton-powered ion engines to maneuver into their operational orbit.
The Falcon 9 guidance computer aimed to deploy the satellites into an elliptical orbit at an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees from the equator. The satellites will use onboard propulsion to do the rest of the work to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.
Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “shells” at varying inclinations for SpaceX’s global internet network. After reaching operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin transmitting broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase Starlink service and connect to the network with a ground terminal provided by SpaceX.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1051.13)
PAYLOAD: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-22)
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
RELEASE DATE: July 17, 2022
LAUNCH TIME: 10:20:00 a.m. EDT (1420:00 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 50% chance of acceptable weather conditions; Low risk of high winds; Low risk of adverse conditions for booster recovery
BOOSTER RECOVERY: “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship east of Charleston, SC
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast
TARGET ORBIT: 144 by 210 miles (232 by 338 kilometers), 53.2 degree incline
- T+00:00: Takeoff
- T+01:12: Maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:28: First stage main engine shutdown (MECO)
- T+02:32: Floor separation
- T+02:39: Second stage engine ignition
- T+02:43: Fairing jettison
- T+06:50: First stage inlet combustion ignition (three engines)
- T+07:09: First floor inlet burn shutdown
- T+08:26: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:47: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 1)
- T+08:48: First stage landing
- T+15:28: Separation of Starlink satellites
- 165th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 173rd launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
- 13th Falcon 9 booster launch B1051
- Launch of the 143rd Falcon 9 from the Space Coast of Florida
- Launch of the 92nd Falcon 9 from pad 40
- 147th launch overall from pad 40
- 107th flight of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
- 51st dedicated launch of Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
- 31st Falcon 9 launch of 2022
- 31st launch by SpaceX in 2022
- 31st orbital launch based at Cape Canaveral in 2022
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