SpaceX lofts 49 Starlink internet satellites to orbit in 1st launch of 2022

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX efficiently launched its first Falcon 9 rocket of the yr Thursday (Jan. 6), sending a brand new stack of Starlink satellites into orbit from Florida, earlier than nailing a touchdown at sea. The beforehand flown Falcon 9 rocket blasted off at 4:49 p.m. EST (2149 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station right here in Florida, carrying a stack of 49 Starlink satellites. Approximately 9 minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth and touched down on the deck of SpaceX’s latest drone ship, “A Shortfall of Gravitas,” marking the corporate’s first profitable launch and touchdown of the brand new yr. “Falcon 9 has successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, carrying our stack of 49 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit,” SpaceX engineer Jessie Anderson stated throughout the launch broadcast.Related: SpaceX’s Starlink satellite tv for pc megaconstellation launches in photosWeather forecasters on the 45th Space Delta predicted ultimate climate circumstances for liftoff, and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. It was a crystal clear day right here in Florida and the rocket could possibly be seen all through its climb by way of the ambiance, disappearing from sight when its first stage separated and started the trek again to Earth. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 49 Starlink satellites from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit score: SpaceX/YouTube)Thursday’s liftoff kicks off one other action-packed yr for the California-based aerospace firm. In 2021, SpaceX set a brand new file for many launches in a single yr at 31. The firm additionally launched a complete of 12 astronauts on three Crew Dragon missions, together with 4 personal residents who flew as half of the Inspiration4 mission. SpaceX will strive to sustain its fast launch cadence this yr as the corporate continues to develop its ever-growing internet constellation. Also on deck this month is the corporate’s third devoted rideshare mission, which is devoted to launching a mess of small satellites in orbit. Following that launch on Jan. 13, the corporate may also ship a radar reconnaissance satellite tv for pc into area for the Italian area company. Called COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG 2), the satellite tv for pc is scheduled to launch on Jan. 24. The constellation growsAn artist’s illustration of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites in orbit.  (Image credit score: SpaceX)Thursday’s flight continues SpaceX’s efforts to develop and improve its burgeoning Starlink internet constellation, marking the 35th devoted Starlink launch since 2019. This launch brings the full quantity of the flat-paneled Starlink satellites up to nearly 2,000. It additionally continues the corporate’s efforts to launch newly upgraded satellites. In an effort to allow the satellites to talk with one another, the corporate geared up them with particular laser hyperlinks. This method the satellites can talk extra successfully, with out having to depend on floor relays. This launch may also function a barely totally different trajectory than regular, with the rocket flying southeast from the coast of Florida, as opposed to the everyday northeast path that current missions have taken. As such, it would have to fly simply north of the Bahamas to keep away from flying over any populated areas. That’s as a result of SpaceX is concentrating on a parking spot a number of hundred miles above the Earth, at an inclination of 53.2 levels — one of 5 orbital shells that the corporate is working to fill with roughly 4,400 satellites. These shells will probably be situated at varied altitudes above the planet, between 335 and 348 miles (540 and 560 kilometers) and at orbital inclinations of 53, 53.2, 70, and 97.6 levels. (The inclination is the angle between the orbital aircraft and the equator.) So far, SpaceX has crammed the 53-degree shell and is engaged on the remaining. Thursday’s launch will fill one other spot in the 53.2-degree orbit, however will simply take a barely totally different route to get there. Starlink’s overarching purpose is to join individuals across the globe, significantly these in rural and distant areas who’ve little to no connectivity. To date, the service is absolutely operational and accessible in 20 international locations, and that quantity retains rising. With greater than 100,000 subscribers, firm officers have stated that this system is repeatedly rising. Falcon’s fourth flightSpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket booster landed on the drone ship referred to as “A Shortfall of Gravitas.” (Image credit score: SpaceX/YouTube)In 2015, SpaceX modified the rocket sport by recovering its first first-stage booster. That success was thanks to a collection of upgrades the corporate offered to its workhorse Falcon 9. Featuring a extra strong thermal safety system, titanium grid fins and a extra sturdy interstage (the half that connects the rocket’s two phases), the souped-up Falcon 9 rocket we see in the present day is succesful of flying many occasions over. As such, the corporate closely depends on a fleet of used rockets to ship its many payloads into area. This mission isn’t any totally different. Dubbed B1062, the rocket featured in Thursday’s flight now has 5 profitable missions beneath its belt. It first debuted in November 2020 when it carried an upgraded GPS III satellite tv for pc into area for the U.S. Space Force. That mission marked the second time that SpaceX was allowed to recuperate a booster after launching a payload for the U.S. authorities. The earlier GPS III launch, which occurred in June 2020, marked the first-ever restoration as half of a authorities mission.It would go on to additionally change into the primary to fly a second authorities payload as simply seven months later, the rocket carried its second GPS III satellite tv for pc into orbit. Following that profitable liftoff, the rocket launched SpaceX’s first personal astronaut mission: Inspiration4. The flight was half of a large fundraising effort for St. Children Research Hospital. As half of that historic mission, 4 personal residents — Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembrowski — boarded a Crew Dragon spacecraft and spent three days orbiting the Earth. Four its fourth act, the identical booster ferried a stack of SpaceX’s personal internet satellites into orbit earlier than returning to Earth and touchdown on a floating platform at sea Thursday night. “A Shortfall of Gravitas” is SpaceX’s latest drone ship. The highly-anticipated ship was added to SpaceX’s fleet in 2021, bringing the full quantity of drone ships up to three. These huge ships are essential parts in SpaceX’s grand scheme of reusability and in the end allow them to fly extra rockets. Prior to its arrival in Port Canaveral, the corporate’s most prolific ship, “Of Course I Still Love You” switched coasts, touring to California in order that rockets launching from SpaceX’s West Coast services would have extra choices for touchdown. There are two methods SpaceX recovers rockets: by touchdown them on a floating platform at sea, or by returning to land and touching down on a delegated touchdown pad. Landings on terra firma require extra gas, so SpaceX usually opts to land its rockets on the drone ships, making certain extra profitable recoveries as not each mission has the surplus gas wanted to return to land. Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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