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SpaceX Launches Falcon 9’s 54 Starlink Satellites To Orbit

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SpaceX Launches Falcon 9's 54 Starlink Satellites To Orbit

(CTN NEWS) – On Saturday, SpaceX launched its third Falcon 9 rocket in less than two days, placing 54 Starlink internet satellites into orbit with the help of a repurposed first-stage booster that was making its record-breaking 15th flight.

Additionally, it was the California rocket manufacturer’s 59th launch of the year, almost doubling its 2021 record.

The experienced first stage’s nine Merlin engines, coated with soot from 14 previous re-entries, ignited with a roar at 4:32 p.m. EST, smoothly ejecting the 229-foot-tall rocket from the famed pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The launch came after a Falcon 9 flight from Florida on Friday afternoon, which launched two SES medium-altitude broadband satellites, and a California flight on Friday that orbited a $1.2 billion ocean monitoring satellite.

SpaceX Launches Falcon 9's 54 Starlink Satellites To Orbit

A Falcon 9 rocket stands on Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 16, ready for launch with 54 more Starlink internet satellites. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

To “prioritize” the SES flight, SpaceX decided to postpone the Starlink launch until Saturday.

In any case, first stage B1058 had yet another issue Saturday while attempting to free-climb out of the dense lower atmosphere.

B1058 made its first flight in May 2020 and assisted in launching the first piloted Crew Dragon ferry ship into space.

The stage separated from the rocket two and a half minutes after liftoff and landed on an offshore landing barge by itself.

The 158th total and 124th drone-ship landing by SpaceX resulted in a successful recovery.

The Falcon 9 second stage finished its ascent to space within seconds of the booster landing.

SpaceX Launches Falcon 9's 54 Starlink Satellites To Orbit

Booster B1058 sticks its 15th re-entry and landing, this one on an off-shore drone ship, setting a new record for SpaceX.

SpaceX continues filling out its world-spanning constellation of laser-linked broadband relay stations.

The 54 Starlink satellites released in one batch bring the total number of Starlink satellites that SpaceX has launched to 3,612.

Although not all satellites are currently in orbit or functioning, space statistician Jonathan McDowell calculates that 3,230 were when Saturday’s flight took off.

In 2021, SpaceX launched 31 Falcon 9 aircraft. Another Starlink flight from Cape Canaveral and the launch of an Israeli Earth-observing satellite from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California are the other two flights anticipated this year.

These launches will bring SpaceX’s total for 2022 to 61.

SpaceX Launches Falcon 9's 54 Starlink Satellites To Orbit

Credit: Spaceflight Now

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1058.15)

  • PAYLOAD: 54 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-37)
  • LAUNCH SITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • LAUNCH DATE: Dec. 17, 2022
  • LAUNCH TIME: 4:32:30 p.m. EST (2132:30 GMT)
  • WEATHER FORECAST: 60% chance of acceptable weather; Low risk of upper level winds; Low-moderate risk of unfavorable conditions for booster recovery
  • BOOSTER RECOVERY: “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship east of Charleston, South Carolina
  • LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast
  • TARGET ORBIT: 144 miles by 208 miles (232 kilometers by 335 kilometers), 53.2 degrees inclination

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