LIFTOFF! Today, May 15, a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket lifted off an eighth time at 6:56 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying 52 Starlink satellites along with a pair of hitch-hikers – Capella Space’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite and the Tyvak-0130 satellite for Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. Today’s launch is the 28th Starlink mission and the company’s fourth rideshare. Sharing payload fairing with Starlink satellites atop previously-flown Falcon 9 rockets reduces the cost of spaceflight. Companies can book this rideshare service through SpaceX’s website. SpaceX is deploying internet-beaming satellites almost on a weekly basis to rapidly increase the network’s performance. The company already has over half-a-million customers who pre-ordered the broadband service via Starlink.com.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/7kNtDdyouH— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 15, 2021
The flight-proven booster that supported this evening’s launch is identified as B1058-8. It previously conducted seven missions, including: SpaceX’s first crewed mission to the International Space Station that launched NASA astronauts aboard Crew Dragon; South Korea’s ANASIS-II satellite; SpaceX’s CRS-21 resupply mission to the Space Station for NASA; and its first rideshare mission known as Transporter-1, plus three previous Starlink missions. B1058-8 was recovered an 8th time today, approximately nine minutes after deploying the satellites to orbit. The booster returned from space and flawlessly landed on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship situated in the Atlantic Ocean. The sea platform is already equipped with a Starlink dish antenna to connect to the internet network. The dish was visible during the Live broadcast of the mission, as the vehicle landed on the droneship, video below. The successful rocket recovery marked SpaceX’s 84th landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 64th time the company reuses a first-stage booster. Engineers aim to reuse boosters in the Falcon 9 Block 5 fleet at least 10 times. They are rapidly accomplishing their reusability goals. The previous Starlink mission reused a booster a tenth time.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship! pic.twitter.com/7QzVxkCuI4— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 15, 2021
Approximately 45-minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s upper-stage released the Capella’s Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite. Then around 1-hour after liftoff it released the Tyvak-0130 satellite. The fleet of 52 Starlink satellites were released to low Earth orbit at about 1 hour 37 minutes after liftoff, video below. The fleet will increase the broadband constellation’s size to around 1,677 satellites in orbit. This cluster of satellites will operate at an altitude of around 550-kilometers above Earth. Operating at a low altitude enables low latency, high-speed internet to users on the ground. As soon as the satellites are released, each will unfurl their single solar panel and use their on-board krypton-powered ion thrusters to move into its operational altitude.
Deployment of 52 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/QqPbBl9gBz— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 16, 2021
Deployment of Tyvak-0130 and a Capella Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite confirmed— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 15, 2021
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Livestream