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July 18, 2024

SpaceX Successfully Launches 23 More Starlink Satellites

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Jan 17, 2024

SpaceX conducted a successful launch of 23 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on January 15th. The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 7:56 PM EST, marking the company’s first launch of 2024.

Lead Up To The Launch

The mission, dubbed Starlink 6-37, was originally scheduled to launch on January 13th but was delayed multiple times due to poor weather conditions and scheduling issues with other launches at the space center [1]. High winds forced SpaceX to call off the first launch attempt on Saturday night [2]. The company then pushed the launch to Sunday evening before winds forced another postponement to Monday night [3].

SpaceX worked through the delays over the weekend to ready the rocket and satellites for flight. Teams completed final checkouts and loaded propellant ahead of Monday’s attempt [4]. The Falcon 9 rocket was moved to the launch pad on Sunday in preparation [5].

This Starlink mission comes after SpaceX launched two Falcon 9 rockets within hours of each other on January 14th, with one from Florida delivering Intelsat satellites to orbit and another from California sending more Starlinks to space [6].

Successful Launch

On Monday evening, weather conditions finally cooperated and teams gave approval to proceed with fueling the Falcon 9 rocket. Liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) were loaded into the two stages in the final hour of the countdown [7].

At T-0, the nine Merlin 1D engines ignited to propel the 230-foot tall rocket off the pad. The Falcon 9 ascended into mostly clear skies, providing visibility along Florida’s Space Coast [8].

The first stage engines powered the rocket through the dense atmosphere for 2.5 minutes before shutting down and separating. While the upper stage continued with the Starlink satellites, the first stage conducted a series of burns to make its way back to Landing Zone 1 [9].

Video showed the first stage nailing its landing at the Cape Canaveral facility, completing its sixth flight. SpaceX was able to recover and reuse hardware from this booster on previous Starlink missions.

Starlink Satellite Deployment

The Falcon 9’s upper stage engine ignited twice to deliver the Starlink satellites into the targeted elliptical orbit about 15 minutes after liftoff [10]. Video from an on-board camera showed the stack of satellites slowly separating from the rocket to fly on their own in space [11].

Deployment of the satellites was confirmed about 1 hour and 20 minutes into the mission [12]. Over the next few days, the satellites will use their onboard ion thrusters to maneuver into a higher orbit and spread out to provide internet coverage [13].

This was the 58th Falcon 9 launch overall to carry Starlink satellites, which will join the over 3,200 already in orbit.

Falcon 9 Launch Number Launch Year Number of Starlinks Launched
1 2019 60
2 2020 60
3 2021 60
57 2023 54
58 2024 23

Table showing number of Starlink satellites launched on each Falcon 9 mission

SpaceX ultimately plans to launch over 40,000 Starlink satellites to beam broadband internet around the globe, with a focus on remote and rural areas.

What’s Next For SpaceX and Starlink

While there are already thousands of Starlinks in orbit, SpaceX says more are needed to provide complete global coverage. The company has ramped up launches over the last two years and has regulatory approval for about 12,000 satellites so far.

Now that the latest batch of satellites is safely in orbit, teams will refurbish and reuse the Falcon 9 booster that landed after launch. The rocket could fly again as soon as March or April.

SpaceX’s next mission is an important one – the private Ax-3 flight for Axiom Space that will send four astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a Crew Dragon capsule. That launch is targeted for no earlier than Wednesday, January 18th [14].

More Starlink missions are also on tap in the coming weeks as SpaceX continues to build out internet coverage. The satellites operate at lower altitudes than traditional internet satellites, meaning more are needed to cover wider regions. But the advantage is SpaceX can send them into orbit on reusable rockets frequently and efficiently.

With two launches from two coasts this past weekend and another 23 satellites deployed on Monday night, SpaceX has made it clear they have no plans to slow Starlink’s expansion in 2024. This year could see the largest number of broadband satellites ever launched to help connect more people across the planet.

References

[1] https://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2024/01/14/spacex-launch-tonight-after-scrub-here-are-facts-about-starlink-mission-at-cape-canaveral-florida/72220786007/
[2] https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/spacex-gearing-up-to-launch-more-starlink-satellites-from-florida-space-coast-saturday-night
[3] https://talkoftitusville.com/2024/01/13/spacex-scrubs-starlink-launch-reschedules-to-sunday
[4] https://www.wesh.com/article/spacex-starlink-launch-cape-canaveral-january/46383145
[5] https://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2024/01/12/spacex-eyes-saturday-night-for-next-falcon-9-rocket-launch-from-cape-canaveral-on-starlink-mission/72161397007/
[6] https://news.satnews.com/2024/01/15/update-6-spacexs-two-successful-launches-all-on-one-day-from-two-coasts/
[7] https://www.clickorlando.com/video/news/2024/01/15/watch-live-spacex-launches-falcon-9-rocket-from-floridas-space-coast/
[8] https://www.wftv.com/news/local/spacex-set-launch-falcon-9-rocket-tonight/NIJFRFSDXVAZ7JWK5HZEOOGMKI/
[9] https://twitter.com/SpaceX/status/1747400049456209990
[10] https://twitter.com/RocketLab/status/1746613795022369063
[11] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/spacex-starlink-satellites-deployed-in-stunning-view-from-space/vi-AA1n63sg
[12] https://twitter.com/SpaceX/status/1747427902348726648
[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink
[14] https://www.floridatoday.com/story/tech/science/space/2024/01/14/spacex-launches-falcon-9-sunday-axiom-crewed-mission-next-up-wednesday-from-kennedy-space-center/72161712007/

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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