Falcon 9 first-stage booster B1063 landing after launching NASA's Sentinel-6 mission. Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX completed a static-fire of a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster ahead of launching the 29th Starlink Mission this afternoon. The booster, designated as B1063-2, previously launched NASA's Sentinel-6 satellite on November 21, 2020. Now, SpaceX is preparing to launch the next fleet of 60 Starlink satellites on Wednesday, May 26 at 2:59 pm. EDT from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Launch Complex-40 [date is subject to change]. The U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts 90% favorable weather conditions for liftoff. It will be the booster’s second flight. Engineers aim to reuse Falcon 9 [Block 5] first-stage boosters at least ten times.
Static fire! The #Falcon9 rocket at SLC-40 has fired its first stage engines in preparation for the launch of the next #Starlink mission.— Tyler Gray (@TylerG1998) May 24, 2021
Now we wait for #SpaceX to confirm a good test via “the tweet™️”.
Via the @NASASpaceflight FleetCam: https://t.co/Gxz4lhbiWI pic.twitter.com/7GVtjORvMZ
The booster had two engines replaced due to a slight pressure drop that occurred during the booster’s landing after launching NASA’s Sentinel-6 satellite to orbit. During this afternoon’s static-firing, booster B1063’s nine Merlin 1D engines were briefly ignited as the vehicle remained grounded to the launch pad. The static-firing enables engineers to assess the engine's performance ahead of liftoff. SpaceX has not confirmed whether the brief engine ignition went well, pending confirmation. This article will be updated as soon as its confirmed. The booster is expected to be recovered a third time to be used on a future mission. After launching the fleet of 60 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, the first-stage booster will conduct a propulsive landing on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship called ‘Just Read the Instructions,’ which will be situated in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 620-kilometers downrange Florida’s coast.
The upcoming Starlink mission gets SpaceX closer to ‘near-global’ Starlink internet coverage. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that providing internet coverage in regions around the globe would be achieved after 28 launches. As of today, Starlink is beaming internet data to rural regions in the United States, Canada, some countries in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. The company is deploying the Starlink constellation in phases, phase one consists of deploying 4,408 internet-beaming satellites to low Earth orbit where the relatively small satellites could provide high-speed internet with very low latency. To date, SpaceX has launched around 1,677 satellites, of which around 1,604 are orbiting our planet according to Center for Astrophysics astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who has closely monitored the constellation. This 29th Starlink mission will mark the completion of the first Starlink shell of satellites operating at an altitude of approximately 550-kilometers. Each satellite uses krypton-powered thrusters to rise into an operational altitude. All of the satellites should be in their final orbits by the end of the year. Author's note: Thanks for supporting TESMANIAN! Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
Update: Correction May 25 - Number of orbiting satellites was changed from 1,666 to 1,604.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.