Falcon 9

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches 12th time to deploy the heaviest payload of Starlink satellites

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches 12th time to deploy the heaviest payload of Starlink satellites

SpaceX reused a Falcon 9 rocket a record-breaking 12th time during the Starlink Group 4-12 mission. The rocket lifted off under cloudy skies at 12:42 a.m. EDT on Saturday, March 19, from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, after storms along the coast delayed the launch by around an hour. The veteran Falcon 9 deployed the heaviest payload of Starlink satellites to date. It is "the heaviest Falcon 9 payload at 16.25 metric tons," shared SpaceX founder Elon Musk via Twitter. A total of 53 internet-beaming Starlink satellites were deployed to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). According to calculations, each Starlink satellite weighs up to 306 kilograms each. These satellites are an upgraded version that feature inter-satellite communication laser link technology.  The previous generation satellites weighed about 260 kilograms each.


The first-stage booster, identified as B1051-12, previously launched Dragon’s first crew demonstration mission to the International Space Station, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, the Sirius SXM-7 radio communications satellite, and now nine Starlink missions. Approximately 9-minutes after liftoff, SpaceX recovered the twelve-times-flown booster by landing on the 'Just Read the Instructions' droneship at the Atlantic Ocean approximately 635-kilometers downrange. It marks the first time a particular Falcon 9 first-stage has flown 12 times. To date, SpaceX has landed a total of 111 rockets and it is the 88th time the company reused a booster. Reusing boosters enables the company to perform cost-effective spaceflights.


SpaceX is working to deploy Phase 1 of the Starlink broadband constellation that involves launching 4,408 satellites into five orbital ‘shells,’ each with different orbital parameters (details shown in the table below). The Starlink Group 4-12 mission deployed 53 satellites to LEO around an hour after liftoff. It is the twelfth batch of satellites launched into orbital Shell 4. SpaceX has launched a total of 2,335 Starlink satellites since 2019. Out of those, 2,112 satellites remain in orbit, 1,575 are operational orbits, and over 450 are rising into operational orbits, according to data by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell. The Starlink broadband constellation is providing service to customers across 29 countries, including Ukraine, where communications infrastructures have been damaged amid the Russian war. SpaceX provided Starlink user antennas to the country and rapidly activated roaming to enable mobile service in the disaster-stricken regions to enable emergency response teams to reliably communicate to rescue civilians from the Russian aggression. SpaceX engineers introduced an upgrade that reduces peak power consumption to enable the Starlink antenna to be powered with a car's cigarette lighter. The Starlink App to set-up the network is now the most downloaded app in Ukraine with nearly 100,000 downloads.





Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

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.

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