SpaceX completed a record-breaking launch manifest in 2021, it performed a total of 31 missions – the most annual launches to date. SpaceX will begin the new year with a pair of rocket launches scheduled for January. This year is expected to surpass the annual launch record. The first space flight of 2022 will be the Starlink 4-5 (Group 4 Launch 5) mission, planned for Thursday, January 6. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket will liftoff at 4:49 p.m. EST from Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying a batch of at least 53 Starlink satellites [date is subject to change]. What is unique about this particular mission is the launch trajectory, Falcon 9 will fly southeast on a course north of the Bahamas to propel the satellites into an orbital plane with a tilt of 53.2 degrees to the equator at an altitude of around 540-kilometers in Low Earth Orbit. SpaceX’s previous launches carrying Starlink satellites into a similar orbit have flown northeast, it is still unknown why the flight profile is different for this particular Starlink 4-5 mission. The Falcon 9 first-stage booster is expect to land on the ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ autonomous droneship. Over the weekend, the droneship headed to the Atlantic Ocean to assist in rocket recovery around 637-kilometers downrange.
LHA map for #Starlink Group 4-5 from KSC LC-39A NET 06 Jan, altern. 07 to 10 Jan based on issued NOTMAR/NOTAMs. Estimated groundtrack, booster landing ~637km downrange, fairing recovery ~673km downrange. S2 reentry during second orbit in South Atlantic. https://t.co/KEJpIIfF3v pic.twitter.com/aRIrsL6NDD— Raul (@Raul74Cz) January 1, 2022
SpaceX plans to launch over 12,000 satellites over the next seven years. Currently, the company is working to fill out five orbital shells with different inclination angles that will total 4,400 Starlink satellites to connect the world to high-speed broadband internet. This week’s launch will mark SpaceX’s 34th Starlink-dedicated launch since May 2019. To date, the aerospace company has launched approximately 1,944 internet-beaming satellites, however, according to Astronomer Jonathan McDowell only 1,793 satellites of those remain in orbit, and 1,468 are operational as of December 31st. The newest satellites deployed late last year will take a couple of weeks to raise into an operational altitude. SpaceX’s Starlink division currently beams internet service to over 140,000 customers across 20 countries.
2022 starts here for SpaceX recovery.— Gav Cornwell 🚢🚀 (@SpaceOffshore) January 1, 2022
A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship is preparing to depart Port Canaveral for the upcoming Starlink mission, NET Jan 6.
New tug Zion M Falgout is towing. https://t.co/cPTKbURbfR pic.twitter.com/iu47QS6ZCz
The second SpaceX rocket launch of 2022 will be the company’s third rideshare mission known as ‘Transporter-3,’ which is scheduled to liftoff no earlier than January 13 at 10:25 a.m. EST from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station's Space Launch Complex-40 [date is subject to change]. SpaceX teams are preparing a Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the satellites into a Sun-Synchronous orbit. SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program offers cost-effective launch services for dozens of customers to deploy payload to orbit by sharing Falcon 9 fairing. The Transporter-3 rideshare will launch dozens of small satellites and spacecraft owned by different companies and organizations from the U.S. and abroad. The previous pair of Transporter rideshare missions carried nearly 100 individual payloads ranging from CubeSats, satellites, small spacecraft, and orbital transfer vehicles.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX