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 4-26 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites. follow us Twitter.
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket and 52 more Starlink Internet satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday. The commercial mission lifted off for low Earth orbit at 10:14 p.m. EDT (0214 GMT) and landed on an offshore drone ship with Falcon 9’s reusable first stage.
The launch team bypassed a launch opportunity at 6:57 pm EDT (2257 GMT) due to adverse upper-level winds.
The Falcon 9 rocket took off northeast from Kennedy Space Center, aiming to deliver flat-packed broadband relay stations to an orbit between 144 miles and 208 miles in altitude (232-by-338 kilometers). The launch occurred 15 minutes after the launch of 52 flat-packed satellites from the Falcon 9’s upper stage.
With Tuesday’s mission, designated Starlink 4-26, SpaceX launched 3,009 Starlink Internet satellites, including prototypes and test units no longer in service. Tuesday’s launch marked the 54th SpaceX mission dedicated primarily to carrying the Starlink Internet satellites into orbit.
Positioned inside the firing room at a launch control center at Kennedy, SpaceX’s launch team began loading super-cooled, condensed kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant into the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 vehicle in T-minus 35 minutes.
Helium pressure also flowed into the rocket during the last half hour of the countdown. In the last seven minutes before liftoff, the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines were thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “chilldown.” Falcon 9’s guidance and range safety systems were also configured for launch.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket drove its 1.7 million pounds of thrust — produced by nine Merlin engines — northeastward over the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket surpassed 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 is released from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, followed by pulses from cold gas control thrusters and expanded titanium grid fins to help propel the vehicle back into the atmosphere.
Two braking burns slowed the rocket down to about 400 miles (650 kilometers) downrange for a landing in “a shortfall of gravitas” on the drone ship about eight and a half minutes after liftoff.
The booster that flew on the Starlink 4-26 mission, known as B1073, launched on its third journey into space. It debuted in May with the previous launch of the Starlink program, then flew again on June 29 with the commercial SES 22 television broadcast satellite.
The first stage of Tuesday’s mission landed after the Falcon 9’s second stage engine cut out to deliver the Starlink satellites into orbit. Separation was confirmed at T+ plus 15 minutes, 24 seconds from the 52 spacecraft Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington.
Retention rods have been released from the Starlink payload stack, allowing the flat-packed satellites to fly freely from the Falcon 9’s upper stage into orbit. 52 The spacecraft will deploy the solar array and run through the automatic activation phase, then use krypton-fueled ion engines to propel them into operational orbits.
Falcon 9’s guidance computer aimed to place the satellites in an elliptical orbit 53.2 degrees to the equator. Satellites will use on-board propulsion to do the rest to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.
Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “shells” at different inclinations for SpaceX’s global Internet network. After reaching their operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin delivering broadband signals to customers, who can purchase Starlink service and connect to the network with SpaceX-supplied ground terminals.
Rocket: Falcon 9 (B1073.3)
Payload: 52 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-26)
Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Lunch date: August 9, 2022
Launch Time: 10:14:40 PM EDT (0214:40 GMT)
Weather forecast: 70% chance of acceptable weather; Low risk of upper level winds; Low risk of adverse conditions for booster recovery
Booster Recovery: A “gravitas deficit” drone ships east of Charleston, South Carolina
Turn on azimuth: Northeast
Target Orbit: 144 mi by 208 mi (232 km by 335 km), 53.2 degree tilt
- T+00:00: Lift off
- T+01:12: Maximum Aerodynamic Pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:26: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
- T+02:30: Stage separation
- T+02:36: Second stage engine ignition
- T+02:41: Fairing jettisoned
- T+06:45: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
- T+07:06: First stage entry burn cutoff
- T+08:19: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:43: Second stage engine cutoff (DRY 1)
- T+08:44: First stage landing
- T+15:24: Starlink satellite separation
- 169th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 177th launch of the Falcon rocket family since 2006
- 3rd launch of Falcon 9 booster B1073
- 146th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
- 53rd SpaceX launch from Pad 39A
- 147th launch overall from Pad 39A
- 111th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
- 54th dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellite
- 35th Falcon 9 launch in 2022
- 35th launch by SpaceX in 2022
- 35th orbital launch attempt from Cape Canaveral in 2022
Follow Stephen Clarke on Twitter: @StephenClark1.