December 10, 2019

Timeline for Falcon 9 launch of Starlink satellites


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Follow the key events of the Falcon 9 rocket’s ascent to orbit 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket will lift off Monday at 9:56 a.m. EST (1456 GMT) from the Complex 40 launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Falcon 9 will head northeast from Cape Canaveral over the Atlantic Ocean to place the 60 Starlink satellites into a circular orbit around 174 miles (280 kilometers) above Earth. The satellites will use their ion thrusters to maneuver into their higher operational orbit at an altitude of approximately 341 miles (550 kilometers).

The Falcon 9’s first stage will target a landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean nearly 400 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral.

The first stage booster launching tonight previous flew on three missions. The booster first launched on an Iridium satellite delivery mission in July 2018, then launched an Argentinian radar observation satellite in October 2018, both from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Most recently, the first stage powered the Indonesian Nusantara Satu communications satellite and the Israeli Beresheet moon lander into space Feb. 21.

The launch will be the first time SpaceX has flown a Falcon booster four times, and it’s also the first launch employing a reused payload fairing, the next step in the company’s push to reuse rocket components and cut costs. The two halves of the payload shroud previously flew on a Falcon Heavy launch in April, and SpaceX retrieved the structures from the Atlantic Ocean.

Data source: SpaceX

T-0:00:00: Liftoff

After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from Complex 40.
After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from pad 40.

T+0:01:14: Max Q

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure, a few seconds after surpassing the speed of sound.

T+0:02:33: MECO

The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.
The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.

T+0:02:36: Stage 1 Separation

The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.

T+0:02:44: Stage 2 Ignition

The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately 6-minute burn to inject the Jason 3 satellite into a parking orbit.
The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately six-and-a-half-minute burn to inject the Starlink satellites into a parking orbit.

T+0:03:24: 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 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+0:06:41: Stage 1 Entry Burn Complete

A subset of the first stage’s Merlin 1D engines completes an entry burn to slow down for landing. A final landing burn will occur just before touchdown on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” around 385 miles (620 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral.

T+0:08:24: Stage 1 Landing

The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster touches down on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

T+0:08:49: SECO 1

The Merlin 1D vacuum engine turns off after placing the Starlink satellites in a temporary parking orbit, beginning a 36-minute coast in space.

T+0:44:50: Stage 2 Restart

The Falcon 9's second stage engine ignites again for a 12-second burn to circularize its orbit.
The Falcon 9’s second stage engine ignites again for a 2-second burn to circularize its orbit.

T+0:44:52: SECO 2

The Merlin 1D vacuum engine shuts down after reaching a target orbit with a high point of 857 miles (1,380 kilometers), a low point of 825 miles (1,328 kilometers) and an inclination of 66 degrees.
The Merlin 1D vacuum engine shuts down after reaching a target orbit about 174 miles (280 kilometers) high with an inclination of approximately 53 degrees.

T+1:00:43: Starlink Deployment

The 60 flat-panel Starlink satellites, each with a mass of about 573 pounds (260 kilograms) deploy from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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