EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated on Feb. 21 with launch delay.
Follow the key events of the Falcon 9 rocket’s ascent to orbit with the Paz Earth observation payload for Hisdesat, operator of Spain’s governmental satellites.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket will lift off Thursday at 6:17 a.m. PST (9:17 a.m. EST; 1417 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Two SpaceX-built mini-satellites are also on the launch to test technologies for the company’s planned broadband communications network.
SpaceX does not plan to recover the first stage booster on this mission. The Falcon 9’s first stage set to launch with Paz previously flew on the Formosat 5 mission from Vandenberg in August 2017.
Data source: SpaceX
After the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines pass an automated health check, the Falcon 9 is released from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure. The first stage’s nine Merlin 1D engines produce about 1.7 million pounds of thrust.
The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.
T+0:02:33: Stage 1 Separation
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
T+0:02:40: Stage 2 Ignition
The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately six-and-a-half minute burn to guide the Paz, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b satellites into orbit.
T+0:02:56: Fairing Jettison
The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.
T+0:08:58: SECO 1
The Merlin 1D vacuum engine turns off after placing the Paz satellite into its planned 317-mile-high (511-kilometer) polar orbit.
T+0:10:58: Paz Separation
The Paz spacecraft deploys from the Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage to begin its five-and-a-half year Earth observation mission. SpaceX’s two Microsat secondary payloads are expected to separate from the upper stage after Paz.
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