May 31, 2020

Timeline for Falcon 9 launch of Starlink satellites


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EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated March 16 with new target launch date.

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

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket is scheduled to lift off Wednesday at 8:16 a.m. EDT (1216 GMT) from the pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Falcon 9 will head northeast from Cape Canaveral over the Atlantic Ocean to place the 60 Starlink satellites into an elliptical orbit ranging between 130 miles (210 kilometers) and 227 miles (366 kilometers) above Earth. The satellites will use their ion thrusters to maneuver into their higher orbit for testing, before finally proceeding to an 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 (630 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral.

The first stage booster launching Wednesday previously flew on four missions. The booster first launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base with 10 Iridium Next satellites in July 2018, then launched again in October 2018 from Vandenberg with Argentina’s SAOCOM 1A radar observation satellite. The booster’s third mission carried the Indonesian Nusantara Satu communications satellite and Israeli Beresheet lunar lander into space in February 2019, and the first stage most recently launched in November with 60 Starlink satellites.

Thee payload fairing on Wednesday’s flight previously flew in May 2019 on SpaceX’s first dedicated Starlink launch.

For Sunday’s mission, SpaceX will attempt to catch both halves of the Falcon 9’s payload fairing using nets aboard the ocean-going ships “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief” in the Atlantic Ocean. The attempt to catch the fairing will come around 45 minutes after liftoff.

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 pad 40.

T+0:01:12: Max Q

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

T+0:02:32: 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+0:02:43: 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-minute burn to inject the Starlink satellites into orbit.

T+0:03:10: 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+0:06:59: 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+0:08:35: Stage 1 Landing

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

T+0:08:52: SECO 1

The Merlin 1D vacuum engine turns off after placing the Starlink satellites in an elliptical orbit ranging between 130 miles (210 kilometers) and 227 miles (366 kilometers) above Earth, with an inclination of 53 degrees.

T+0:14:48: 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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