July 18, 2024
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Discovery

SpaceX resumes Falcon 9 flights as launch cadence increases in June

B1082 takes off into the gathering darkness of Vandenberg at 8:40 pm PDT on Tuesday. Photo credit: SpaceX

SpaceX successfully resumed Falcon 9 operations at 8:40 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, flying a batch of 20 Starlink Internet communications satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, although the launch of the powerful geostationary communications satellite Astra 1P from the Space Coast was postponed until Wednesday night due to poor weather conditions. Teams will now realign for a 49-minute backup “launch window” for Astra 1P that opens tomorrow at 5:35 p.m.EDT.

Blackened and charred from its previous launches and re-entries, B1080 must wait at least one more day for its Astra 1P mission. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Since the pace of Falcon 9 missions increased dramatically only in 2024, going from a maximum of nine launches per month to the end of 2023 to ten at the end of Januaryeleven and twelve at the end of March and thirteen and fourteen at the end of maySpaceX already, in the middle of the year,equaled the total of 61 flights for all of 2022. Including the West Coast mission just completed last night, the Hawthorne, California-based organization is flying on average every 2.8 days, increasing the likelihood that more than 130 Falcon-class vehicles will take to the skies before the next one. New Year's Eve bell. tolls.

As AmericaSpace highlighted yesterdayThe teams initially targeted back-to-back launches just six hours apart on Tuesday, with the B1080 propellant used eight times ready to fly from the historic Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida during a 49-minute “window” opening at 5:35 pm EDT. Loaded with the powerful Astra 1P payload for Luxembourg-based SES, the mission will deliver the 11,000-pound (5,000-kilogram) communications satellite on the first leg of its journey to a geostationary altitude, where it will spend 15 years at the critical 19 .2 degrees East longitude, its 80 Ku-band transponders facilitate the transmission of up to 500 High Definition Television (HDTV) channels to Germany, Spain and France and to 118 million homes.

The B1080 launches on its maiden voyage in May 2023 for the Ax-2. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

But with weather conditions in Florida hovering around 55 percent favorable and an elevated risk of violating takeoff winds, the cumulus cloud rule and the lightning rule, it was no surprise when SpaceX canceled the launch. Fueling the 230-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 with liquid oxygen and a highly refined form of rocket-grade kerosene (known as “RP-1”) began at T-38, as teams monitored the weather. But with the passage of time the worsening of the situation was decisive.

However, Wednesday (and, indeed, the end of this week) doesn't look much brighter, with just a 30 percent chance of acceptable conditions, along with a “moderate-high” risk that the weather could also affect the recovery of the economy. B1080 in the Atlantic Ocean aboard the East Coast-based Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), “Just Read the Instructions.” The outlook could improve slightly to around 40 percent favorable on Thursday, although weather models differ.

The B1080's nine Merlin 1D+ exhaust columns appear to flare radially, at the end of the CRS-30's ascent in March. Photo credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

“The dominant easterly flow will continue for the remainder of this week,” the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Space Force Base noted in a post-clear update Tuesday night, “as a storm approaches. “east wave”. This is expected to produce wind speeds in the region of 25 to 30 mph (40 to 48 km/h) for Wednesday's launch attempt, with gusts potentially reaching 35 to 40 mph (56 to 64 km/h) within any rain activity. The expected arrival of the easterly wave on Thursday is expected to bring “a significant increase in humidity”, with risks of violating the cumulus cloud rule and the anvil rule.

The weather on the West Coast, on the other hand, couldn't have been more favorable, with conditions trending more than 90 percent “Go.” as a newcomer B1082 she was prepared for the fifth launch of her career in the sixth month of the year. B1082 is the latest addition to SpaceX's Vandenberg fleet, appearing on the scene in January. for the first US orbital launch of the year and has since logged three additional flights between February and Candelivering a total of 83 Starlinks and the USSF-62 payload for the US Space Force.the first member of the Weather System Monitoring Microwave (WSF-M) satellite network ushering in a new generation of operational environmental monitoring from a sun-synchronous orbit.

B1082 rises in the darkness of Vandenberg to begin the 61st Falcon 9 mission of 2024. Photo credit: SpaceX

With an extensive four-hour series of T-0 points from 8 pm to 11:36 pm PDT on Tuesday, SpaceX teams launched into the darkness of Vandenberg at 8:40 pm as B1082 moved uphill with 20 new Starlinks, raising the total number. Of these satellites it has launched since its maiden voyage in January to just north of 100. Eight minutes after launch, it pirouetted in the darkness to land on the deck of the unmanned ship based on the west coast, “Of course that I still love you.” .

And the deployment of the 20 Starlinks, including 13 with “Direct to Cellular” functionality, capable of allowing mobile network providers to offer “seamless global access to text messages, calls and navigation”, whether “on land, lakes or coastal waters”. without needing to change hardware or firmware, it happened promptly one hour later, at 9:40 pm PDT. Since January, more than 1,000 Starlinks have been launched and well over 6,600 of these small flat satellites have been successfully launched into orbit. since May 2019.

Onboard cameras reveal a stunning view of Vandenberg's launch landscape in the moments after last night's liftoff. Photo credit: SpaceX

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, and Sierra Leone joined the network in June, bringing to 79 the total number of nations or sovereign regions that will receive 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 in-orbit maneuvering.”

B1082 lies on the deck of the unmanned ship after a soft landing. Photo credit: SpaceX

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.

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