On Friday, June 17, a previously-flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off a record-breaking 13th time to launch another Starlink mission. It is the first time the company reuses a first-stage booster 13 times. The previously-flown rocket launched at 12:09 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It carried a total of 53 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). It marks the 47th operational Starlink mission, designated as Group 4-19 which is the 18th launch of satellites into orbital Shell 4.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/28eNKniMqe— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 17, 2022
The first-stage booster that supported the Starlink Group 4-19 mission is identified as B1060-13. It previously launched the U.S. Space Force GPS III-3 navigation satellite deployment, the Republic of Turkey's Turksat 5A satellite, SpaceX's Transporter-2 SmallSat Rideshare Program launch, and now 10 Starlink missions. Approximately eight minutes after liftoff, the booster returned from orbit and landed on the 'A Shortfall of Gravitas' autonomous droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean –"marking SpaceX’s first 13th flight of a first stage booster and 100th successful mission with a flight-proven orbital class rocket!" said SpaceX. To date, SpaceX has landed 124 orbital-class rocket boosters.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship – marking SpaceX’s first 13th flight of a first stage booster and 100th successful mission with a flight proven orbital class rocket! pic.twitter.com/6XjfcOPuUh— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 17, 2022
The fleet of 53 internet-beaming Starlink satellites were deployed to LEO around half an hour after liftoff. In the days ahead, the Group 4-19 satellites will use their onboard ion thrusters to maneuver into an operational orbit in Shell 4. Shell 4 consists of arranging 1,584 satellites into 72 orbital planes with 22 satellites in each plane operating at an equatorial inclination of 53.2° degrees and altitude of 540-kilometers (km). So far, SpaceX has launched 18 missions into Shell 4, around 30 launches will be required to complete the orbital shell (see orbital parameter data in the table below). SpaceX has launched a total of 2,706 Starlink satellites since 2019 of which 2,457 remain in orbit. The company plans to launch a total of 12,000 satellites in the years ahead to build a robust global internet network. Starlink already provides internet access to over 500,000 subscribers living across 36 countries.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX