Source: SpaceX / Of Course I Still Love You Autonomous Droneship
Starlink is part of SpaceX's plan to fund their space program by offering worldwide broadband internet satellite connection. SpaceX was scheduled to launch the fourth batch of 60 Starlink satellites by Friday, the launch got delayed due to extreme weather conditions at sea, where the company set up an autonomous droneship landing pad to recover the Falcon 9 rocket booster, in order to reuse it again. By reusing a rocket's first stage they save a lot of money, the goal is to make spaceflight as cheap and reliable as using cars or travelling via airplanes. The upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 generation of rockets can be used up to 10 times, so making sure weather conditions are stable for recovery is important. Cape Canaveral and other areas in Florida have been experiencing high upper level winds, cold weather conditions that involve heavy rain caused by a gale northeast of the Bahamas, there is especially bad weather at sea. This morning, SpaceX announced that weather conditions at the rocket's recovery area in the Atlantic Ocean are unfavorable.
"Weather in the recovery area continues to be unfavorable so team is now targeting Monday, January 27 for launch of Starlink."
Weather in the recovery area continues to be unfavorable so team is now targeting Monday, January 27 for launch of Starlink, pending Range availability— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 23, 2020
A twice flown Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift-off on Monday at 9:49 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Falcon 9 rocket boosters that have the capacity to use their own nine Merlin 1D engines to lift-off payload into orbit then thrust themselves back from space to land vertically on autonomous droneships at sea, in order to be reused again.
The first flight of this particular Falcon 9, known as B1051, was during the Crew Dragon spacecraft's first test voyage to the International Space Station, Demo-1, that took place on March 2, 2019. The second flight of B1051 took place on June 12, 2019, it deployed the RADARSAT constellation. SpaceX will use the same B1051 Falcon 9 rocket booster a third time on this Starlink mission. Weather conditions at sea must be favorable because the company will use an autonomous droneship named Of Course I Still Love You situated in the Atlantic Ocean to recover the Falcon 9's first-stage during this Starlink-3 mission to fly it again on a future launch.
The United States Air Force's 45th Space Wing weather squadron will issue a weather forecast for Monday's launch by Friday. If conditions are favorable the flight will take place.
Falcon 9’s first stage supporting this mission previously launched off LC-39A and from SpaceX’s West Coast launch pad pic.twitter.com/XVZt9TpQap— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 21, 2020
The 60 Starlink satellites that will be deployed will add to the 180 that are already in low Earth orbit. SpaceX is the company with the world's largest constellation, this next launch will add on a total of 240 satellites. President of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, said that after 24 rocket launches they expect to achieve global internet coverage, "We need 360 to 400 to have a constant connectivity where the satellites can end up through the ground talking to each other. Once we get to 1,200 satellites, we will have coverage of the whole globe." The company aims to conduct 24 Starlink dedicated launches this year.
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.