Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX successfully test-fired a five-times-flown Falcon 9 rocket in Florida early Saturday morning, in preparation to conduct the company's fourteenth Starlink mission. "Static fire test complete – targeting Sunday, October 18 at 8:25 a.m. EDT for Falcon 9’s launch of 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center," SpaceX announced. During the static-fire test, the Falcon 9 rocket was filled with sub-chilled propellant, rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen. Then, engineers ignited the booster's nine Merlin engines for a few seconds while grounded on the launch pad with clamps, pictured below.
F9 Static Fire completed earlier this morning. https://t.co/HRQIdHbU1g— Nathan Barker (@NASA_Nerd) October 17, 2020
The booster supporting this launch has flown on five previous missions, and this mission will be the third flight for both fairing halves— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 17, 2020
"The booster supporting this launch has flown on five previous missions, and this mission will be the third flight for both fairing halves," SpaceX stated. The booster, production number B1051, conducted five flights: It previously launched three Starlink missions, deployed a RADARSAT satellite, and conducted SpaceX's Crew Dragon first uncrewed demonstration (Demo-1) mission to the International Space Station. Engineers will attempt to land the booster a sixth time on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous droneship situated about 633-kilometers downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX will also attempt to recover the payload fairing halves with twin catcher ships that feature a large net, called 'Ms. Tree' and 'Ms. Chief' (video of the ships below).
SpaceX has been using previously flown Falcon 9 first-stage boosters and fairings on its Starlink-dedicated missions to develop its reusability program and decrease the cost of spaceflight. SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to develop a fully reusable rocket, Falcon 9 has the potential to be 80% reusable. The company is pushing to fly a particular first-stage booster 10 times. So far, it has re-flown a first-stage booster 6 times.
The fleet of 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites will be deployed at around one hour after Falcon 9 lifts off. In the weeks following deployment the satellites will use their onboard krypton-powered ion thrusters to reach their operational altitude of 550-kilometers. You can watch the satellites' deployment Live in the video below.
"As our Starlink network is still in its early stages, the Starlink team continues to test the system, collecting latency data and performing speed tests of the service," SpaceX stated. The company aims to begin offering broadband internet service in northern United States before this year ends.
Watch It Live!