Today, Friday, March 17, SpaceX launched 52 internet-beaming Starlink satellites to orbit from California. A flight-proven Falcon 9 lifted off at 12:26 p.m. PT from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at the Vandenberg Space Force Base. SpaceX is arranging the Starlink broadband constellation in Low Earth Orbit in groups that have different orbital parameters referred to as 'shells.' This mission is called ‘Starlink Group 2-8’ which is the sixth launch to deploy a fleet of satellites into the ‘Shell 2’ of the Starlink constellation. In Shell 2, the 52 Starlink satellites will operate at an orbital altitude of around 570 kilometers at an inclination of 70.0 degrees to Earth’s equator.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/scElnpo3uy— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 17, 2023
Soon after Falcon 9’s upper-stage was released to orbit with the 52 Starlink Group 2-8 satellites, the first-stage booster returned to land on SpaceX’s ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean. The booster that supported this mission is identified as B1071-8 which has now been reused and recovered eight times. It previously launched: the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office NROL-87 and NROL-85 missions, Germany’s SARah-1, NASA’s SWOT orbiting observatory, and now three Starlink missions. To date, SpaceX has landed orbital-class rockets 178 times and reused recovered boosters 150 times. Reusability has enabled SpaceX to reduce the cost of launching payload to orbit which enables it to perform frequent missions to space.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/8k4vdF5e1u— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 17, 2023
The fleet of 52 Starlink satellites was deployed to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) approximately 15.5 minutes after liftoff. With this deployment SpaceX has now launched a total of 4,053 Starlink satellites to orbit. However, Astronomer Jonathan McDowell has tracked the satellites since 2019 and dozens of satellites have been deorbited over the years due to varying reasons. According to McDowell’s data, 3,803 Starlink satellites remain in orbit as of today. When satellites are no longer useful, SpaceX says that the satellite completely burns in Earth’s atmosphere which prevents space debris. The Starlink constellation could ultimately have at least 12,000 satellites to be deployed in the coming years to provide internet globally. Visit SpaceX’s official Starlink.com website for more information.
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX Live Mission Broadcast
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.