SpaceX achieved its 200th successful Falcon 9 launch this morning (February 2) during the 70th operational Starlink mission. "Congrats Falcon & Starlink Teams," said SpaceX founder Elon Musk via Twitter after the launch. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 2:58 a.m. ET from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deploy another fleet of 53 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). “Nearly 70 percent of all Falcon 9 missions have been completed by flight-proven boosters — rocket reusability is key to enabling SpaceX’s rapid launch cadence,” said the company.
Nearly 70 percent of all Falcon 9 missions have been completed by flight-proven boosters — rocket reusability is key to enabling SpaceX’s rapid launch cadence— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 2, 2023
Congrats Falcon & Starlink teams! https://t.co/J5s7zLqRDf— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 2, 2023
The Falcon 9 first-stage booster was recovered approximately 8-minutes after liftoff, it landed on the ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ autonomous droneship at sea, The booster that supported this Starlink Group 5-3 mission is identified as B1069-5, it has now flown five times. It previously launched SpaceX’s 24th NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-24) mission, the Eutelsat HOTBIRD-13F mission, the OneWeb-1 satellite fleet, and now two Starlink missions. To date, SpaceX has recovered 169 Falcon 9 boosters with propulsive landings enabling the company to reuse orbital-class rockets 142 times – this is unprecedented in the history of rocketry. SpaceX is the leader in innovation and sets the bar high on how 21st century rockets should operate. Reusability enables SpaceX to get the most out of the investment that went into manufacturing advanced rockets and enables it to provide cost-effective flights to its customers.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship pic.twitter.com/9a56rWumR1— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 2, 2023
The fleet of 53 Starlink satellites was deployed around an hour after liftoff. This particular group of satellites belongs to Starlink Group 5-3, which is the third mission that has upgraded satellites. The company is arranging the Starlink constellation across different ‘shells’ with varying orbital parameters. It is believed these satellites have hardware to test the Starlink Gen2 System because the satellites will operate in Shell 5 with an orbital plane that is part of SpaceX’s second-generation Starlink network at an altitude of 530 kilometers with a 43-degree orbit. The first fleet of these upgraded satellites was deployed in December 2022. “Under our new license, we are now able to deploy satellites to new orbits that will add even more capacity to the network. Ultimately, this enables us to add more customers and provide faster service – particularly in areas that are currently over-subscribed,” stated SpaceX after the mission in December.
Now, the Starlink constellation size has increased to around 3,582 operational satellites in LEO. The company has permission from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch up to 7,500 Starlink Gen2 satellites to orbit, most of which are expected to be much larger and require Starship to be deployed. The Starlink Gen2 System will provide robust coverage with enhanced features, including: an inter-satellite laser-link communications system, and antennas capable of beaming data directly to smartphones. The capability will be collaborative work between SpaceX and T-Mobile to provide satellite-to-cellular voice and SMS services in the near-future.
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
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.