On May 10, SpaceX performed the 30th Falcon 9 mission of 2023. The company has been launching rockets at an impressive average rate of one mission every 4.5 days. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said earlier this year that they aim to perform up to 100 missions this year which is nearly double what it launched in 2022. Achieving this packed launch manifest can be possible thanks to its partially-reusable workhorse Falcon 9 rocket which has demonstrated high reliability even after being reused over a dozen times – this feat is unprecedented in the history of rocketry.
The mission that lifted off on Wednesday afternoon was the Starlink Group 2-9 mission which deployed a fleet of 51 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit. The flight-proven Falcon 9 lifted off at 1:09 p.m. PT from Space Launch Complex 4 East at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/ZQmhx4Nynn— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 10, 2023
The sooty Falcon 9 first-stage booster released the upper-stage to orbit and reentered Earth’s rough atmosphere approximately 8.5 minutes after liftoff. It performed a propulsive landing on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous spaceport droneship, stationed in the Pacific Ocean around 660-kilometers downrange off the California coast. The booster that performed this mission is identified as B1075-3, it has performed 3 flights, including: the United States government’s Space Development Agency’s Tranche 0 mission and now two Starlink missions. To date, SpaceX has performed 229 missions, 190 landings of Falcon boosters, and reused orbital-class rockets 164 times.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/wL2qRtrYxI— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 10, 2023
The Starlink Group 2-9 satellites were released to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by Falcon 9’s upper-stage around 20 minutes after liftoff. The 51 Starlink satellites will unfurl their single solar array and begin rising into their operational orbits in the coming weeks, as SpaceX engineers monitor the operation from Earth and check that each satellite works properly. Phase 1 of the Starlink constellation is being arranged in orbital shells with varying orbital parameters. The Group 2-5 fleet is the seventh launch that will operate in Shell 2 at an altitude of around 570 kilometers above Earth with a 70 degree inclination to the equator. SpaceX has launched a total of 4,391 Starlink satellites, of which 4,074 remain operating in orbit, according to data by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell who closely monitors the Starlink constellation. The Starlink network beams internet service to over 1.5 million subscribers 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.