Follow the key events of the Falcon 9 rocket’s ascent to orbit with 64 smallsats on Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express rideshare mission.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket will lift off Monday at 10:31 a.m. PST (1:31 p.m. EST; 1831 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
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+0:02:24: Stage 1 Separation
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
T+0:02:32: Stage 2 Ignition
The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately 6-minute burn to inject the SSO-A satellites into orbit.
T+0:02:38: Stage 1 Boost-back Burn
A subset of the Falcon 9’s engines ignited to help the rocket reverse course and target a landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” offshore Vandenberg Air Force Base.
T+0:02:43: 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. The fairing halves will deploy parafoils for a controlled descent into the Pacific Ocean.
T+0:05:58: Stage 1 Entry Burn
A subset of the first stage’s Merlin 1D engines ignite for an entry burn to slow down for landing. A final landing burn will occur just before touchdown.
T+0:07:45: Stage 1 Landing
The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster touches down on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.
T+0:10:01: SECO 1
The Merlin 1D vacuum engine turns off after placing the SSO-A satellites in an orbit approximately 357 miles (575 kilometers) above Earth.
T+0:13:47: Begin SSO-A Deployment Sequence
The separation sequence begins with deployment of the SSO-A Upper Free Flyer from the Falcon 9 rocket at T+plus 13 minutes, 17 seconds. Four microsatellites will subsequently separate from adapter rings on the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, followed finally by release of the Lower Free Flyer around 43 minutes after liftoff. The two free flyers will then continue their mission, deploying an additional 60 smallsats over the following four hours. Final separation of an SSO-A payload is set for around 4 hours, 45 minutes, after liftoff. Credit: Spaceflight
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