On Monday, February 21st, SpaceX performed the 38th Starlink mission that launched 46 internet-beaming satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The fleet of satellites are collectively identified as Group 4-8. A veteran Falcon 9 rocket lifted off an 11th time at 9:44 a.m. EST to launch the Group 4-8 satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It is the second time SpaceX launches a first-stage booster an 11th time. The booster is identified as B1058-11; It first launched SpaceX’s first crewed mission for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2020. Then it deployed South Korea’s ANASIS-II satellite and launched cargo to ISS as part of the CRS-21 mission. B1058-11 also launched two SpaceX rideshare missions Transporter-1 and Transporter-3, as well as 5 Starlink missions.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/XIDjbJtDPz— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 21, 2022
Soon after launching the Starlink Group 4-8 satellites to orbit, the booster landed on the ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ autonomous drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean – marking the 107th landing of an orbital-class rocket. SpaceX is the only aerospace company in the world with an incredible rocket recovery and reuse record. The rocket’s two payload fairing halves were also previously-flown. The nose cone supported three missions and have been recovered for use on a future spaceflight. “Improvements on the fairings and our overall refurbishment process has decreased the impact of water landings handled to an overall fairing recovery rate of 93% over the last 14 missions,” said SpaceX Production and Engineering Manager Jessie Anderson during the launch broadcast.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 21, 2022
“Great news overall, we are now awaiting the deployment of our 46 Starlink satellites which is scheduled to occur about an hour from now,” said Anderson after the launch, adding that the satellite deployment would not be livestreamed due to not having ground station video links with the satellites. The company does usually broadcast the satellites deployment that includes stunning views of planet Earth from LEO. Around one hour after liftoff, SpaceX announced via Twitter that the satellites were released to orbit. “Deployment of 46 Starlink satellites confirmed,” the company wrote. Starlink Group 4-8 is the seventh cluster of satellites deployed into Shell 4 that consists of arranging a total of 1,584 yet-to-be-launched satellites into 72 orbital planes with 22 satellites in each plane operating at an equatorial inclination of 53.2° degrees and altitude of 540-kilometers (km). Around 30 launches will be required to fill out this orbital shell.
Deployment of 46 Starlink satellites confirmed— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 21, 2022
The satellites were released into an approximate altitude of 325-337 kilometers with an equatorial inclination of 53.2 degrees. Then the satellites will open the single solar array and use onboard Krypton-powered ion thrusters to slowly begin raising into an operational altitude of around 540-kilometers which will take a few weeks.
SpaceX has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 12,000 satellites. To date, the total number of Starlink satellites launched is 2,137, however, only 1,923 are currently in orbit around the Earth. Some satellites have fallen out of orbit due to a variety of factors. SpaceX built the satellites specifically to be completely destroyed in Earth’s atmosphere when each becomes no longer operational.
Recently, a geomagnetic storm destroyed 40 Starlink satellites that were newly launched on February 3rd. The company demonstrated its on orbit debris mitigation when all satellites came crashing back to Earth and completely burned up upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere like a tiny shooting star. Read more: SpaceX Demonstrates On-orbit Debris Mitigation After Geomagnetic Storm Destroyed 40 Starlink Satellites. The operational satellites currently provide internet service to over 250,000 customers who pre-ordered across 25 countries. Visit Starlink.com for more information about the broadband service.
VIDEO: SpaceX Starlink Group 4-8 Mission
Featured Image Source: SpaceX