On Sunday, May 14, SpaceX performed the 31st orbital mission of 2023 (excluding the Starship launch attempt). The company is on track to launch a record-breaking launch manifest this year of up to 100 missions which is nearly double what it launched in 2022. SpaceX is launching rockets at an average rate of 4.5 days since the year started. The Falcon 9’s capability to be reused is what enables SpaceX to perform frequent missions to space. Just 4 days ago, it launched a Starlink mission that deployed 51 satellites to orbit. Earlier today (May 14) it launched another Starlink mission that propelled a fleet of 56 Starlink satellites, increasing the constellation size to around 4,127 working satellites in Low Earth Orbit.
While most people are asleep, SpaceX is out working sending payloads to space. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 1:03 a.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida carrying the 56 Starlinks that belong to ‘Group 5-9’.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/zRIs6LGeMM— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 14, 2023
The flight-proven Falcon 9 first-stage booster that performed the Starlink Group 5-9 mission has now been used on 11 missions, including: SpaceX’s 22nd and 25th NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-22 & CRS-25) mission, NASA Crew-3 and Crew-4 astronauts, Turksat 5B, the Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13G mission, mPOWER-a, and now four Starlink missions. The rocket booster is identified as B1067-11, it was recovered an 11th time. It landed on the ‘Just Read The Instructions’ autonomous droneship around 8.5 minutes after liftoff. The landing platform was stationed around 660-kilometers downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. As of today, SpaceX has landed a total of 191 orbital-class rockets and reused 165 times. The company is setting the standard for engineers in the space industry to follow. SpaceX rocket landings are always impressive to watch, video below.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship pic.twitter.com/bYvC8sH9NX— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 14, 2023
The fleet of 56 Starlink satellites was released to orbit by Falcon 9’s upper-stage around 65 minutes after liftoff. SpaceX is arranging Phase 1 of the Starlink constellation in five ‘shells’ with varying orbital parameters. The Starlink Group 5-9 satellites are the eighth fleet that will operate in Shell 5 at an altitude of around 560 kilometers above Earth with a 97.6 degree inclination to the equator. SpaceX has plans to deploy 7,500 next-generation Starlink satellites in the coming years. The satellites in this fleet are presumed to be first-generation satellites. According to data collected by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, SpaceX has launched a total of 4,447 Starlink satellites since 2019. A couple hundred of these satellites lost altitude and were burned in Earth’s atmosphere due to varied factors. At the time of this writing only around 4,127 remain in orbit and 4,090 Starlink satellites are operational. The constellation is providing high-speed internet to 1.5 million subscribers globally.
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
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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.