SpaceX is launching Starlink satellites on a weekly basis to rapidly expand Internet coverage globally. The incredible launch pace is possible thanks to the company's ability to reuse orbital-class Falcon 9 boosters. On Friday the 13th, SpaceX successfully launched the 44th operational Starlink mission from California. A flight-proven Falcon 9 lifted off a fifth time at 3:07 p.m. PT from Vandenberg Space Force Base Launch Complex-4 East and deployed a total of 53 satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The next Starlink launch is scheduled in around ~22.5 hours, on Saturday, May 14 at 4:40 p.m. ET from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Watch the upcoming Starlink mission in the video linked at the end of this story.
The previously-flown rocket that launched Friday's Starlink Group 4-13 mission is identified as first-stage booster B1063-5. It has now launched three Starlink missions, NASA's Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, as well as NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) which is the first planetary defense mission.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/TWmYoVcNjW— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 13, 2022
Less than 9-minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9's first-stage booster returned to Earth and landed on the 'Of Course I Still Love You' droneship that was stationed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. It marked the 5th landing for B1063-5 and SpaceX’s 112 landing of an orbital-class Falcon 9 rocket. Engineers aim to fly each booster in its Falcon 9 Block 5 fleet at least 10 times. To date, three boosters have been reused 12 times –a first in the history of rocketry! SpaceX's impressive ability to recover rockets to reuse allows it to launch payloads to orbit at an impressive rate and reduced cost.
Source: SpaceX launch broadcast
A total of 53 Starlink satellites were deployed to orbit by Falcon 9's upper-stage around a half-hour after liftoff; increasing the total number of satellites launched to 2,547, of which 2,300 are in orbit. SpaceX is working to deploy Phase 1 of the Starlink constellation that consists of launching a total of 4,408 Starlink satellites into 5 orbital ‘shells’ with different parameters in LEO.
The cluster of Group 4-13 satellites deployed are the 15th launch into Starlink Shell number 4. The fourth shell consists of arranging 1,584 satellites into 72 orbital planes with 22 satellites in each plane operating at an equatorial inclination of 53.2° degrees and altitude of 540-kilometers (km). So far, SpaceX has launched 15 missions into Shell 4, around 30 launches will be required to complete the orbital shell. See Starlink Phase 1 orbital parameter data in the table below.
The company already beams internet service to over 250,000 customers living across 33 countries. Besides the United States, Starlink is available in: Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Chile, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Sweden, Mexico, Croatia, Lithuania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Luxembourg, Latvia, Tonga, Hungary, and Ukraine. SpaceX released a Starlink Coverage Map that enables interested customers to input their address to check if internet service is available in their region. Visit SpaceX’s official website Starlink.com for more information about the Starlink internet service.
VIDEO: WATCH THE NEXT STARLINK MISSION ON SATURDAY!
This video will go Live on May 14, around 15-minutes before 4:40 p.m Eastern Time.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Launch 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.