SpaceX’s previously-flown Falcon 9 will liftoff an eighth time to deploy the next Starlink fleet

SpaceX’s previously-flown Falcon 9 will liftoff an eighth time to deploy the next Starlink fleet

SpaceX is ready to launch the next fleet of internet-beaming Starlink satellites after it opened Starlink service preorders to the public via on a ‘first-come, first-served basis.’ “Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable,” the company stated, “At a time when more people are working from home and more students are participating in virtual learning, internet connectivity is more important than ever. With Starlink, we are able to deploy quickly to areas that need it most.” SpaceX shared that in December 2020, they connected the Wise County Public School District in rural Virginia to Starlink internet, “where approximately 40% of teachers and students do not have internet access at home […] to support remote learning. Starlink units were deployed in January and over 40 homes are now connected with high-speed internet,” company representatives wrote.

SpaceX successfully test-fired a seven-times-flown Falcon 9 rocket in Florida in preparation for the company's twentieth Starlink launch this weekend. “Static fire test complete – targeting Sunday, February 28 at 8:37 p.m. EST for launch of Starlink,” they announced. The previously flown rocket will liftoff an eighth time from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center to deploy a fleet of 60 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit.

The Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster that will conduct the upcoming Starlink mission is identified as production number B1049-8. It previously flew on seven missions; including five Starlink satellite deployments, the Iridium-8 mission, the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission. Rocket reusability is very important to reduce manufacturing costs. SpaceX has been using previously flown Falcon 9 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 one day, Falcon 9 only has the potential to be 80% reusable. The company is pushing to fly a particular first-stage booster ten times. This weekend’s launch will mark the second time the company reuses a particular rocket eight times.

SpaceX plans to recover the first-stage, B1049-8 will attempt to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship situated in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 630-kilometers downrange. However, during the previous mission SpaceX failed to land a reused booster on a company droneship, it splashed down at sea instead. Which is a rare occurrence for the company that has made landing orbital-class rockets routine. To date, SpaceX has landed 74 orbital-class Falcon 9 rockets and reused 54. Hans Koenigsmann, a senior advisor at SpaceX and former vice president of build and flight reliability said the failed landing on the previous rocket launch was due to 'heat damage.' “We’re really close to nailing it down and then taking corrective actions,” Koenigsmann said on February 23 at the 47th Spaceport Summit. “It’s related to heat damage, and that’s all I can say at this point in time,” he said, stating that engineers are still investigating the issue. 

The company shared that during the upcoming Starlink flight it will also reuse fairing, the top section that encloses the 60 Starlink satellites. “One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously flew on three Starlink missions, and the other half previously supported two Starlink missions,” they said. Reusing fairings can save the company around $6 million per launch. To recover fairings they use boats equipped with a giant net to catch them as each halve conducts a parachute-assisted landing. You can watch the Starlink launch in the video below on Sunday, February 28 at 8:37 p.m. EST [date is subject to change]. 



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Featured Image Source: SpaceX 

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn 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.

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