SpaceX is launching missions at an unprecedented rate to complete a record-breaking 2023 launch manifest of up to 100 missions. The aerospace company launched the 21st mission of the year today, March 29. SpaceX says it has been launching payload to orbit on average every 4 days since the year started. This impressive launch rate is possible because SpaceX is capable of reusing the first-stage of its Falcon 9 rockets. Today, SpaceX launched another batch of 56 Starlink satellites to orbit to expand internet coverage. A previously-flown Falcon 9 lifted off at 4:01 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This mission is called ‘Starlink Group 5-10’ which is the 77th operational Starlink mission.
The first-stage Falcon 9 booster supporting this mission is internally identified by SpaceX as B1077-4, which has now flown four times. It previously launched NASA’s Crew-5 astronauts to the International Space Station, the United States Space Force’s GPS-III Space Vehicle 06 satellite, and Inmarsat’s I-6 F2 mission. The four-times-flown booster returned from space soon after deploying Falcon 9’s upper-stage to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). B1077-4 landed on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ droneship which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 8.5 minutes after liftoff. SpaceX shared an incredible video of the rocket’s autonomous propulsive landing, linked below. This marks SpaceX’s 182nd landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 154th time it reuses a booster.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/92i7ApdDfz— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 29, 2023
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship pic.twitter.com/BeO1VrgvOe— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 29, 2023
The batch of 56 Starlink satellites was successfully deployed to LEO around 65 minutes after liftoff. This Starlink Group 5-10 consists of 56 first-generation satellites (V1.5) that will open their single solar arrays and use onboard krypton-powered thrusters to raise into a higher operational orbit of 530-kilometers above Earth at an inclination of 43 degrees to the equator. This fleet of satellites will operate in a similar orbital shell as some second-generation (Gen2) satellites.
According to data compiled by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, today’s launch increased the Starlink constellation’s size to 3,914 functioning satellites – around 3,300 of these are operational, and nearly 400 are still moving into their operational orbits. SpaceX has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch a total of 4,400 first-generation satellites and 7,500 second-generation Starlink satellites to orbit in the coming years, which is 11,900 satellites in total. With its current fleet of around 3,300 operational satellites, the company already provides internet service to over 1 million subscribers around the world, including maritime coverage to sea-going vessels and aircraft. Every newly launched satellite fleet will enhance the Starlink internet network’s capabilities and expand coverage globally.
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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.