Today, April 27, SpaceX performed its 27th mission of the year – the Starlink Group 3-5 mission. A veteran Falcon 9 rocket lifted off under foggy skies at 6:40 a.m. PT from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, carrying 46 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). SpaceX is rapidly launching Starlink satellites to increase the broadband internet network’s capabilities and expand service coverage globally. The company has amassed over one million Starlink subscribers residing across all seven continents.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/n3xGC0THqp— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 27, 2023
The veteran Falcon 9 rocket that performed the Starlink Group 3-5 mission is internally identified by SpaceX as booster B1061-13, it has now flown 13 times. It previously launched SpaceX’s first and second operational NASA astronaut missions to the International Space Station known as Crew-1 and Crew-2. It also launched SiriusXM’s SXM-8 radio satellite, NASA’s 23rd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-23) mission, the IXPE mission, SpaceX’s Transporter-4 and Transporter-5 SmallSat Rideshare Program missions, the Globalstar FM15 satellite, the Israeli ISI EROS C-3 Earth observation satellite, and now four Starlink missions. Approximately 8.5 minutes after propelling the upper-stage to orbit, the booster returned from space with a propulsive landing on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship which was stationed around 635 kilometers off the California coast in the Pacific Ocean, video below. It marked SpaceX’s 187 landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 159 time it reused a previously-flown booster from its Falcon 9 Block 5 fleet. Reusability is what enables the company to increase its launch tempo. This week, the U.S. Space Force gave SpaceX permission to lease another launch complex at the Vandenberg Space Force Base which will enable the company to perform more missions. Read the previous TESMANIAN story: SpaceX earns U.S. Space Force approval to lease Space Launch Complex-6 in California for Falcon 9 & Falcon Heavy missions
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/J16ymBsfwc— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 27, 2023
The fleet of 46 Starlink Group 3-5 satellites was deployed to LEO by Falcon 9’s upper-stage at around 59 minutes after liftoff. This fleet is part of Phase 1 of the Starlink constellation which SpaceX is deploying into five orbital shells with varying orbital parameters. Starlink Group 3-5 is the fourth fleet of Starlink satellites that will operate in Shell 3 which has a designated altitude of 560 kilometers at 97.6 degrees to the equator. The 46 satellites will unfurl their single solar array and engineers at SpaceX Mission Control will test the satellites work properly before allowing each to use their onboard thrusters to rise into its designated operational altitude. Starlink satellites operating in Shell 3 will provide internet coverage to Polar regions. According to data compiled by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, SpaceX now has a total of 3,969 working Starlink satellites in orbit. The company plans to launch thousands more to operate a constellation of at least 12,000 satellites someday.
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX Live Broadcast
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.