Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX is ready to launch the thirteenth fleet of 60 Starlink satellites. The mission is scheduled for tomorrow September 17th. A twice flown Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Starlink-13 mission at 2:17 p.m. EDT. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission will be Livestreamed in the video below.
The United States Space Force 45th Weather Squadron forecasts a 60% chance of favorable launch conditions for liftoff on Thursday afternoon. The forecast states the primary weather concern are thunderstorms along Florida’s coast. If the launch is delayed, the next launch opportunity is Friday, September 17 at 1:57 p.m. EDT. UPDATE: Launch was delayed until Friday.
The historic Falcon 9 first-stage rocket booster that will conduct the upcoming Starlink mission is the same one that returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. The Falcon 9 rocket propelled two veteran NASA astronauts to orbit aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft in May. Then in June, the same booster took flight again, it deployed the South Korean ANASIS-II communications satellite. SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket booster a third time tomorrow. – “Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean,” SpaceX announced, “One of Falcon 9’s fairing halves supported two previous Starlink launches.” The fairing is the enclosed top nose cone section of the Falcon 9, that encloses the payload like a clamshell. As the rocket reaches orbit the fairing opens to release the satellites, and the fairing halves make their way back to Earth.
SpaceX is working towards reusing Falcon 9 parts to reduce the cost of spaceflight. To recover the Falcon 9 fairing halves, it uses a pair of twin ships called ‘Ms. Chief’ and ‘Ms. Tree’. Each feature a giant net to catch the fairing halves as they fall from space. The Falcon 9’s fairing halves are equipped with small steering thrusters and a set of parachutes. Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff, the fairing halves cross Earth’s atmosphere to conduct a parachute-assisted landing on fairing the catcher ships' net, as shown in the video below.
SpaceX has recovered a few fairings with the twin ships. To date, Ms. Tree has caught five fairing halves and Ms. Chief has caught one. One of the fairing halves was recovered twice, it will be used during Thursday’s Starlink mission – “A fairing half supporting this mission previously supported Starlink missions in May 2019 and March 2020,” the company stated. Recovering fairings to reuse can save the company around $6 million per flight.
A fairing half supporting this mission previously supported Starlink missions in May 2019 and March 2020 pic.twitter.com/x98icJkqqi— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2020
SpaceX said the fleet of 60 Starlink satellites “will deploy approximately 1 hour and 1 minute after liftoff.” The mission will take the company closer towards offering Starlink service, the constellation size will increase to around 768 satellites in low Earth orbit. SpaceX officials previously stated 800 satellites are needed to offer “moderate” internet coverage to customers in the northern United States and Canada. SpaceX is primarily focused on connecting rural areas on Earth where internet connection is unreliable. By next year the company aims to expand its service capabilities to the rest of the world.
WATCH IT LIVE!