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 is counting down to the liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket and 52 more Starlink Internet satellites on Tuesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The commercial mission is scheduled to launch into low-Earth orbit at 22:14 EDT (02:14 GMT), and the Falcon 9’s reusable first stage will target a landing on an offshore drone ship.
The launch team missed a launch opportunity at 6:57 pm EDT (2257 GMT) due to unfavorable upper-level winds. There is a 70% chance of favorable weather for Tuesday’s liftoff, according to the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron.
The Falcon 9 rocket will head northeast from the Kennedy Space Center, with the goal of carrying the compact broadband repeater stations into an orbit ranging from 144 miles to 208 miles in altitude (232 by 338 kilometers). Deployment of the 52 compact satellites from the Falcon 9 upper stage will occur about 15 minutes after liftoff.
With Tuesday’s mission, designated Starlink 4-26, SpaceX will have launched 3.09 Starlink Internet satellites, including prototypes and test units that are no longer in service. Tuesday’s launch will mark SpaceX’s 54th mission dedicated primarily to putting the Starlink internet satellites into orbit.
Stationed inside a firing room at a launch control center at Kennedy, the SpaceX launch team will begin loading liquid oxygen and super-cooled densified kerosene propellants into the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 vehicle at T-minus 35 minutes.
Pressurized helium will also flow into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. In the last seven minutes before liftoff, the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will thermally condition themselves for flight through a procedure known as “relaxation.” The Falcon 9’s range and guidance safety systems will also be configured for launch.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will direct its 1.7 million pounds of thrust, produced by nine Merlin engines, to head northeast over the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket will exceed the speed of sound in about a minute and then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The booster stage will break free from the Falcon 9 upper stage, then fire pulses from the cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help steer the vehicle back into the atmosphere.
Two braking bursts will slow the rocket down to land on the “A Shortfall of Gravitas” unmanned craft about 400 miles (650 kilometers) about eight and a half minutes after liftoff.
The booster that flies on the Starlink 4-26 mission, known as B1073, will launch on its third trip to space. It debuted in May with a pre-launch for the Starlink program, then flew again on June 29 with the SES 22 commercial television broadcast satellite.
The landing of the first stage of Tuesday’s mission will occur moments after the Falcon 9’s second stage engine shuts down to launch the Starlink satellites into orbit. The separation of spacecraft 52, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, from the Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for T+plus 15 minutes, 24 seconds.
The retaining rods will be released from Starlink’s payload stack, allowing flat satellites to fly freely from the Falcon 9 upper stage in orbit. The 52 spacecraft will deploy solar arrays and execute automated activation steps, then use krypton-fueled ion engines to maneuver into their operational orbit.
The Falcon 9 guidance computer aims to deploy the satellites in an elliptical orbit with an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees relative to the equator. The satellites will use onboard propulsion to do the rest of the work and reach a circular orbit 540 kilometers (335 miles) above Earth.
The Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “layers” with different inclinations for SpaceX’s global internet network. After reaching their operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin transmitting broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase Starlink service and connect to the network with a SpaceX-provided ground terminal.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1073.3)
USEFUL LOAD: 52 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-26)
LAUNCH SITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
RELEASE DATE: Aug. 9, 2022
LUNCH TIME: 22:14:40 EDT (02:14:40 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 70% chance of fair weather; Low risk of high winds; Low risk of unfavorable conditions for reinforcement recovery
BOOSTER RECOVERY: Unmanned boat “A Shortfall of Gravitas” east of Charleston, South Carolina
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: northeast
TARGET ORBIT: 144 miles by 208 miles (232 kilometers by 335 kilometers), 53.2 degrees of incline
- T+00:00: Takeoff
- T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:26: First stage main engine cut-off (MECO)
- T+02:30: Separation of stages
- T+02:36: Second stage engine ignition
- T+02:41: Fairing removal
- T+06:45: First stage inlet burn ignition (three engines)
- T+07:06: First stage entrance burn cut
- T+08:19: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:43: Second stage motor cut-off (DRY 1)
- T+08:44: Landing first stage
- T+15:24: Separation of Starlink satellites
- 169th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 177th launch of the Falcon rocket family since 2006
- Third Falcon 9 B1073 booster launch
- 146th Falcon 9 launch from the Florida Space Coast
- SpaceX’s 53rd launch from Pad 39A
- Launch 147 overall from platform 39A
- Flight 111 of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
- 54th dedicated launch of Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
- 35th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
- SpaceX’s 35th launch in 2022
- 35th Cape Canaveral-based orbital launch attempt in 2022
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