July 14, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Discovery

As CFT Starliner mission counts down, SpaceX continues booster and fairing reuse cadence

B1067 becomes the fourth Falcon 9 booster to achieve its 20th launch Tuesday night. Photo credit: SpaceX

SpaceX's second mission in June and its shortest changeover between flights of payload fairing halves was successfully completed Tuesday night, when one of its most experienced Falcon 9 boosters roared uphill loaded with communications satellites. additional Starlink Internet connection. The veteran B1067: makes its fifth launch of the year and the 20th of his career since June 2021-pink from the historic Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Floridaat 10:16 p.m. EDT, when attention now turns to takeoff scheduled for noon on Wednesday of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V from neighboring SLC-41 and the long-awaited Crew Flight Test (CFT) of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.

Hitting Cape Canaveral with 1.7 million pounds (770,000 kilograms) of thrust, June's second Falcon 9 takes flight. Photo credit: SpaceX

With last night's launch, B1067 now stands as the fourth Falcon 9 core to make it through a 20th mission and, discounting its sibling B1060 which was intentionally worn out after its 20th flight in April, it now ranks third in the life leader board as one of SpaceX's extreme veterans. First flight in June 2021 and most recently in early mayB1067 has launched 11 batches of nearly 400 Starlinks into orbit, as well as four large geostationary communications satellites and two pairs of manned and unmanned missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

It first entered service almost three years ago to launch the CRS-22 Cargo Dragon. for a month-long stay in the sprawling orbital complex. He then carried eight astronauts from the United States, Germany and Italy to the sprawling Crew-3 orbital complex. in November 2021 and Crew-4 in April 2022followed by the CRS-25 Cargo Dragon to the station the following summer.

B1067 was making its 20th launch in less than three years. Photo credit: SpaceX

Added to this impressive list, B1067 also eliminated its first geostationary communications satellite for Türkiye in December 2021, helping to set a new (now surpassed) peer-to-peer record for Falcon 9 launches in under 16 hours.and a pair of O3b mPOWER broadband satellites in December 2022. Other payloads included the Hotbird 13G communications satellite in November 2021 and the Satria Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) for Indonesia's Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) in June 2022.

Notably, its launch of Hotbird 13G in November 2022 marked the first time SpaceX achieved 50 Falcon 9 missions in a single calendar year. And in January 2023One of its Starlink payloads tipped the scales at 38,400 pounds (17,400 kilograms) to become the heaviest Falcon 9 payload ever orbited at the time.

Blackened and charred by multiple high-energy launches and re-entries, B1067 is pictured ahead of its 17th mission in February. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

With weather conditions 95 percent favorable, SpaceX targeted a pair of T-0 points for B1067's final mission: the first at 10:16 p.m. EDT on Tuesday and a second at 7:50 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. . And without further ado, this extreme fleet veteran launched into space precisely on time on the first launch attempt, the dazzling glow of its nine Merlin 1D+ engines and a thrust of nearly 1.7 million pounds (770,000 kilograms). ) propelled their latest mission to the top. .

Last night's flight marked the 41st batch of Starlinks launched so far in 2024 and brings the total number of these small, flat-pack Internet communications satellites flown since January to more than 900. In total, more have already been successfully delivered of 6,500 Starlinks. to orbit since May 2019.

Spectacular ascent of the B1067 in May 2023. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

As a network, Starlink enables the delivery of high-speed, low-latency Internet to more than 70 sovereign nations and international markets in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa. In the month of May alone, Starlink connectivity was available in Uruguay, Indonesia and Fiji, bringing to 78 the total number of sovereign nations or regions receiving full coverage.

The small V2 Mini satellites, flew for the first time in February last year, have three to four times more “usable” bandwidth than previous versions of Starlink. “The V2 Minis include key technologies, such as more powerful phased array antennas and the use of E-band for backhaul, that will allow Starlink to provide 4 times more capacity per satellite than previous iterations,” SpaceX explained. “Among other improvements, the V2 Minis are equipped with new argon Hall thrusters for maneuvering in orbit.”

B1067 launches on its 14th mission in October 2023. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Florida-based intercity operator Brightline adopted Starlink on its trains in 2023, the first passenger rail service in the world to do so. Additionally, El Salvador's Ministry of Education has begun integrating Starlink capability into its schools to help close the digital divide between remote urban and rural communities and 50 Rwandan schools are now connected via high-speed Internet service. Starlink speed. As of May, Starlink reportedly had around three million registered subscribers or customers worldwide.

Eight minutes into last night's mission, B1067 gracefully pirouetted home and landed on the deck of the East Coast-based Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), “Just read the instructions,” becoming the second SpaceX booster to complete 20 drone ship landings. This also marked the shortest delivery time for the Falcon 9's reusable payload fairing halves, which had already been used on a mission just two weeks ago.

Beautiful ascent for B1067 on a Starlink mission in August 2023. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

“Half of the passive fairing for this mission recently supported a @Starlink mission on May 22, less than two weeks ago,” SpaceX tweeted after last night's launch, “marking our fastest turnaround from launch to launch for renewal and reuse of the fairing”.

Fairing reuse has been a central tenet of SpaceX's reuse philosophy: the first fairing was successfully recovered intact from the ocean in March 2017 and fairings are routinely recovered for additional missions. since mid-2019. The fairing halves were blown up first, recovered and blown up again. in November 2019, a process that has since been repeated more than 300 times. In April 2023, a Falcon Heavy flew for the first time with reused fairing halves and last february A Falcon 9 booster mirrored the fairing half for the record 15th time.

After a pair of failed launch attempts on May 6 and last Saturday, today may be the third time lucky for Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

With two Falcon 9 missions completed in June, attention now turns to Cape SLC-41, where a 172-foot-tall (52.4-meter) Atlas V with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft at its tip is entering the final hours of the countdown. toward a planned launch at 10:52:15 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. As AmericaSpace previously notedThe long-awaited launch has been delayed twice: on May 6 was cleared less than two hours before takeoff, due to a faulty oxygen relief valve on the Atlas V's twin-engine Centaur upper stage (DEC), and last Saturday an issue with the ground support equipment (GSE). ended with a second attempt less than four minutes from the planned T-0.

Hopes to begin a 24-hour launch and recycling process as early as Sunday ultimately failed, with teams opting to retreat until Wednesday to replace and retest equipment on the pad. Countdown operations began at 11:32:15 pm EDT on Tuesday, exactly 11 hours before launch, at point T-6 hours and 20 minutes.

Close view of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, atop Atlas V. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

That extensive countdown includes a couple of built-in waits: the first lasts an hour at T-2 hours, to facilitate the shift change before feeding the Atlas V with cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants, and a second lasts four hours just after. feeding T-4 minutes when the rocket is in an “idle” state. This will allow ULA and Boeing teams to access the Starliner spacecraft and assist Crew Flight Test (CFT) Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and pilot Suni Williams on board.

Wilmore and Williams will complete the first full Starliner flight test with astronauts on board. They will spend at least eight days “docked” aboard the ISS, working alongside the titular Expedition 71 crew on a wide range of flight test objectives, before returning to a parachute- and airbag-assisted landing on the southwestern United States after a mission. approximately ten days.

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