SpaceX Adds Another 60 Satellites to Starlink Network-Spaceflight Now

The Falcon 9 rocket is launched on Saturday from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX assessed concerns over the Falcon 9 rocket engine that delayed other missions, including the next crew flight to the International Space Station, as SpaceX continued its record launch cadence by successfully deploying more than 60 Starlink Internet satellites in orbit on Saturday. I did.

At 11:31:34 AM EDT (1531: 34 GMT) on Saturday, 60 Starlink satellites exploded at Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Base. This mission has been postponed from Thursday to allow engineers to assess the problem with the camera on top of the Falcon 9 rocket.

Nine kerosene-fueled Merlin 1D engines flew a 70-meter-high launcher into the sky along a trajectory northeast from Cape Canaveral.

The first phase of the rocket turned off the engine, separated two and a half minutes into the mission, and initiated a controlled descent that landed exactly on a floating platform located 400 miles (630 km) northeast of the launch point.

The landing completed a third space round trip for the reusable Falcon 9 booster (designated B1060) and landed just before the upper stage of the rocket delivered 60 Starlink satellites to the reserve parking orbit.

SpaceX wasn’t trying to grab the Falcon 9’s two-piece payload pairing when it fell to Earth under a parachute. Due to the nose cone structure, one of SpaceX’s fairing repair vessels had their nets damaged at the company’s latest launch on October 18th.

Instead, SpaceX dispatched one of the boats from the fleet to retrieve the fairing structure from the Atlantic Ocean so that it could be used for inspection, repair, and future flights.

After crossing the Atlantic, Europe and the Middle East, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 re-ignited a single engine at T+ plus 44 minutes, injecting the Starlink satellite into an almost circular orbit at an altitude of approximately 275 km. ) Ramp of 53 degrees to the equator.

All 60 satellites flattened on top of the Falcon 9 rocket for launch were all separated from the upper stage at 12:34 PM EDT (1634 GMT). The rocket’s live video feed showed a flat panel satellite flying south of Tasmania, moving out of view.

The satellite, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, was expected to begin raising its orbit to an operating altitude of 341 miles (550 km) by unfolding a generating solar array and preparing a krypton ion thruster. Other Starlink relay stations transmit broadband Internet signals to most of the densely populated world.

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SpaceX plans to operate an initial block of approximately 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbit 341 miles above Earth. Founded by billionaire Elon Musk, with regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission, it can operate up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations operating on Ku-band, Ka-band and V-band frequencies.

There are also preliminary plans for the larger 30,000 additional Starlink satellites, but a network of that size has not been approved by the FCC.

SpaceX is still in its infancy with its Starlink network, designed for low-latency Internet services, and engineers are continuing to test the system to collect latency data and speed tests. SpaceX, filed with the FCC on October 13, said it has begun beta testing the Starlink network in several states in the United States and is providing Internet connectivity to students who have not previously received service in rural areas.

On September 28, the Washington Department of Defense announced that emergency responders and residents in Malden, Washington, were using Starlink Internet services to recover from wildfires that destroyed much of the city.

Earlier this month, Washington government officials said Hoh Tribe began using Starlink services. SpaceX recently announced that it has installed a Starlink ground terminal in its administration building and about 20 private homes on the Hoh Tribe Reservation.

According to the Starlink satellite catalog maintained by Jonathan McDowell, a widely respected astronomer tracking space flight activity around the world, 53 of the Starlink satellites have been out of orbit since launch. It is mainly a test model launched last year. According to McDowell, two other satellites have failed, and 20 other satellites appear to have stopped maneuvering, and it is estimated that about 820 spacecraft will be operational.

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From October 6th, SpaceX launched 180 Starlink satellites into orbit in three dedicated Falcon 9 rocket missions. It is more of a satellite than the entire constellation operated by Planet, which owns the second largest spacecraft fleet in orbit.

As of this week, Planet has about 150 active SkySat and Dove Earth imaging satellites, a company spokesman said.

SpaceX continues to launch Starlink while delaying other missions due to engine issues.

The launch of three Starlink missions against the Falcon 9 rocket this month occurred as SpaceX postponed another launch to study problems with the Merlin engine that halted the Falcon 9 countdown on October 2nd with a US military GPS navigation satellite.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, tweeted that the countdown stopped at T-minus two seconds after “an unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachine gas generator,” referring to equipment used in the rocket’s nine Merlin first-stage main engines. I did. The gas generator in the Merlin 1D engine drives the engine’s turbopump.

NASA said the launch of SpaceX’s first Operation Crew Dragon flight from the Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station will be postponed from October 31 to early to mid-November, allowing engineers to study and solve engine problems. Announced. .

Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s Human Space Flight Program, said on October 21 that the space agency and SpaceX were in the engine test. I better understand the unexpected behavior observed during the recent launch, not NASA.”

It’s too early to report results at this point. SpaceX We continue testing to determine what is the most reliable cause,” tweeted Lueders.

She wrote that SpaceX is replacing one engine on the Falcon 9 rocket assigned to the Crew Dragon mission known as Crew-1, and one on the Falcon 9 booster designated for the launch of the US-European oceanography satellite next month by the Vandenberg Air Force. Bass, California.

The engine being replaced showed behavior similar to the “initial start motion” mentioned during the GPS launch, which was interrupted on October 2nd during ground testing, Lueders wrote.

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The launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite is scheduled for November 10 in California, Lueders said.

“We are also continuing to work towards the mid-November release of Crew-1,” she added. “We’ll want to complete a data review and check performance over a few days between Sentinel-6 and Crew-1. Most importantly, when you’re ready, you’ll do all the work.”

The Crew-1 mission launches four astronauts to begin a six-month exploration on the International Space Station. Following the two-seater crew dragon test flight that began last May 30 and ended with a successful return to Earth on August 2, this is the first orbit launched by astronauts on U.S. land since the space shuttle retired in 2011. Flight.

In a media briefing on October 16, NASA managers revealed that engineers from NASA, the U.S. Space Force and SpaceX are jointly investigating engine problems that were revealed during the October 2 countdown.

Tim Dunn, NASA’s launch director for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission, said, “I can say we’ve reviewed a huge amount of data, including members of our commercial crew program.

In addition to testing at the launch site in Cape Canaveral, SpaceX removed the engine from the Falcon 9 rocket for its GPS mission and returned it to the company’s test facility in McGregor, Texas for detailed testing and review.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Dunn said. “The engines installed on the various rockets will affect the hardware as we move forward. GPS missions are clearly affected. The NASA Crew-1 mission is affected. In the Sentinel-6 we are looking at the engine in its first stage. We’ll be working on what we need to do, but starting today we have a course to do the necessary rework and keep the November 10 release date. “

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