SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket lifted its heaviest payload into low-Earth orbit on Thursday morning (January 26), launching 56 new Starlink internet broadcast satellites.
He falcon 9 The first-stage propellant that powered the mission during its ascent through Earth’s atmosphere had been used eight times previously, including on two crewed missions to the International Space Station (crew 3 Y crew 4which was released in November 2021 and April 2022 respectively).
the 56 starlink satelliteswith a combined weight of 17.4 metric tons (19.4 tons), according to a SpaceX commentator, they were protected by a fairing reused five times during the ascent.
related: 10 Weird Things About SpaceX’s Starlink Internet Satellites
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The rocket lifted off safely from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida after a ten-minute delay at 4:32 am EST (0922 GMT).
The first stage separated about 2 minutes and 30 seconds after liftoff and began its controlled descent back to Earth. The veteran first stage touched down safely about eight minutes and 40 seconds after liftoff when it landed on SpaceX’s ‘Just Read the Instructions’ unmanned spacecraft off the coast of Florida.
The two halves of the fairing, one on the fifth and the other on the sixth flight, detached from the nose of the upper stage shortly after the separation of the first stage and fell into the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX said in the webcast that it intends to recover the fairing for later reuse.
Approximately 55 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX confirmed on twitter (opens in a new tab) that the satellites were successfully launched into orbit.
The launch will add even more satellites to SpaceX’s giant Starlink constellation, which provides Internet service to customers around the world.
Starlink already consists of more than 3,400 operational satellites (opens in a new tab)and that mind-boggling number will continue to grow in the future. Elon MuskThe company already has permission to lift 12,000 Starlink spacecraft and has sought approval to deploy nearly 30,000 more satellites on top of that.
Thursday’s launch was already the sixth of 2023 for SpaceX and the company’s 205th overall. If the company maintains this cadence, a big if, since it’s still January, it will break its year-long launch record of 61, which set in 2022.
Mike Wall is the author of “out there (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; Illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @migueldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedot.com (opens in a new tab) either Facebook (opens in a new tab).
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