SpaceX aims to launch up to 100 Falcon 9 missions in 2023 which is double what it launched last year, according to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. The company is on track to achieve this record-breaking launch manifest with missions scheduled on a weekly basis. Today, February 17, SpaceX launched the 11th launch of the year. A veteran SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off at 11:12 a.m. PT from Space Launch Complex-4 East at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California to deploy a fleet of 51 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). It marked the rocket's ninth flight. SpaceX also plans to launch another Falcon 9 mission from the East coast tonight at 10:59 p.m. ET if the weather is favorable at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/jMzn6ftWW6— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 17, 2023
Approximately eight minutes after liftoff, the veteran Falcon 9 first-stage booster landed on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous drone ship stationed in the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. Recovering rockets has become routine for the company; reusability enables cost-effective spaceflight which enables more frequent launches. It marked SpaceX’s 172nd landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 145th time it reused one. The booster that supported this particular Starlink Group 2-5 mission is identified as B1063-9, it launched nine missions: the NASA Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Earth observatory, NASA’s DART planetary defense mission, and now seven Starlink missions. Read more: NASA intentionally crashes DART into Asteroid to test planetary defense technology
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/CPoMMzPDgS— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 17, 2023
The fleet of 51 Starlink satellites was released to orbit around 15-minutes after liftoff. The satellites belong to Starlink Group 2-5 which is the third fleet of satellites that will operate in Shell 2. SpaceX is arranging Phase 1 of the Starlink constellation across five orbital shells with different orbital parameters in LEO. This particular fleet will operate at an altitude of 570 kilometers with an inclination of 70 degrees to the equator. Shell 2 will have a total of 720 yet-to-be-launched satellites. With today’s launch, SpaceX now has approximately 3,689 Starlink satellites in orbit to provide internet globally. The company has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy 7,500 next-generation satellites in the coming years to complete the broadband constellation.
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
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.