Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX is ready to launch the seventeenth fleet of Starlink satellites on Monday, January 18. A seven-times-flown Falcon 9 booster will liftoff for its eighth mission to propel 60 internet-beaming satellites to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX announced today “the instantaneous window is at 8:45 a.m. EST, or 13:45 UTC. A backup opportunity is available on Tuesday, January 19 at 8:23 a.m. EST, or 13:23 UTC.” UPDATE: SpaceX now targets Tuesday, January 19, due to unfavorable weather.
Due to unfavorable weather conditions in the recovery area, now targeting Tuesday, January 19 at 8:23 a.m. EST for launch of Starlink— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 18, 2021
The previously-flown Falcon 9 first-stage booster that will propel the seventeenth fleet of Starlink satellites to orbit is identified as booster B1051-7. The booster previously launched seven missions: four other Starlink missions, the launch of Crew Dragon’s uncrewed Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station in March 2019, the RADARSAT launch in June 2019, and most recently B1051 supported the launch of SXM-7 for SiriusXM satellite radio station service, deployed on December 13, 2020. Now the same booster will launch Starlink satellites tomorrow – marking the shortest turnaround time of a booster to date at 36 days. It will also be the first time SpaceX launches a previously-flown booster 8 times. Engineers aim to reuse a particular booster at least 10 times to significantly reduce the cost of spaceflight. The aerospace company is currently the only one in the world capable of reliably returning orbital-class rockets from space to be flown again. To date, the company has recovered 71 Falcon 9 boosters and reused 50.
SpaceX will attempt to recover B1051 an eighth time soon after liftoff. –“Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ droneship, which will be located in the Atlantic Ocean. One of Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported a Starlink mission and the other previously supported two,” the company shared. The company is also working on a recovery system for Falcon 9 fairings, which is the top nose cone section that protects the payload like a clamshell. Recovering fairing halves to reuse saves SpaceX approximately $6 Million. It uses recovery ships called ‘Go Ms. Tree’ and ‘Go Ms. Chief’, which are equipped with giant nets to catch Falcon 9’s fairing halves as each fall from space. Each fairing halve feature cold gas thrusters to orientate themselves as they descend back through Earth’s atmosphere and use parachutes to perform a landing atop the ship’s nets, as pictured below. If weather is favorable, SpaceX is also expected to recover the fairing halves. The United States Space Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron forecasts 70% of 'GO' weather conditions for Monday.
Image Source: SpaceX
Once the seventeenth Starlink fleet is deployed next week, SpaceX will increase the number of satellites in low Earth orbit to approximately 1,013 out of over 4,400 it plans to deploy. Company officials previously said that twenty-four launches would enable them to offer Starlink service worldwide. If SpaceX continues to launch two Starlink missions per month, it would reach global internet coverage in mid-2021. Currently, SpaceX only offers satellite broadband internet connection to select customers living at high-latitudes in northern United States, Canada, and rural areas in United Kingdom. To find out when Starlink service will be available in your area sign-up via Starlink.com. You can watch the Starlink Mission Live in the video below tomorrow at 8:40 EST, courtesy of SpaceX [date is subject to change].
WATCH IT LIVE!
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.