May 23, 2022

Live coverage: SpaceX launches next batch of Starlink satellites

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 46 Starlink broadband satellites. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

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Forty-six more Starlink internet satellites are ready for launch Monday from Cape Canaveral, where SpaceX teams are counting down to liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket at 9:44 a.m. EST (1444 GMT).

You can watch our live launch coverage on this page beginning at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT).

Powered by nine Merlin first stage engines, the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will head southeast over the Atlantic Ocean to place the 46 flat-packed Starlink internet satellites into an orbit with an inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator.

The mission continues the rapid build-out of the Starlink network, with this launch poised to push the total number of Starlink satellites launched to more than 2,100. More than 1,500 of the satellites are currently operational, beaming high-speed, low-latency internet signals around the world.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rolled from its hangar to pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station over the weekend in preparation for the company’s seventh mission of the year. This fight is known as Starlink 4-8 on SpaceX’s launch schedule.

At last report, SpaceX said it had more than 145,000 subscribers in 25 countries for its privately-developed Starlink internet service.

SpaceX is continuing the deployment of around 4,400 Starlink satellites in five orbital “shells” at slightly different altitudes and at different inclinations, or angles to the equator. The launch Monday is targeting an orbital shell at an inclination of 53.2 degrees and an altitude of 335 miles (540 kilometers).

The Falcon 9 rocket will fire its single Merlin upper stage engine two times to reach a near-circular orbit between 202 miles and 209 miles (325 by 337 kilometers) in altitude. Deployment of the 46 satellites is scheduled around 63 minutes after liftoff, then the spacecraft will use ion engines to climb to an altitude of 335 miles.

The mission Monday is carrying fewer Starlink satellites into a higher, more circular orbit than SpaceX’s recent Starlink missions. The change was apparently ordered after SpaceX lost 38 Starlink satellites days after launching into a lower-altitude orbit Feb. 3.

A solar storm generated higher-than-expected levels of atmospheric drag, causing the Starlink satellites to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up before they were able to turn on their ion thrusters and maneuver into their operational orbit.

The first stage booster on Monday’s mission, tail number B1058, is flying on its 11th mission. The booster debuted May 30, 2020, on the launch of SpaceX’s first crew mission.

SpaceX’s drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” is on station in the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas for landing of the first stage booster.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1058.11)

PAYLOAD: 46 Starlink satelllites (Starlink 4-8)

LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: Feb. 21, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 9:44:20 a.m. EST (1444:20 GMT)

WEATHER FORECAST: 90% chance of acceptable weather; Low to moderate risk of unfavorable conditions for booster recovery

BOOSTER RECOVERY: “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone ship near the Bahamas

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Southeast

TARGET ORBIT: 202 miles by 209 miles (325 kilometers by 337 kilometers), 53.2 degrees inclination

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T+00:00: Liftoff
  • T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:32: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
  • T+02:35: Stage separation
  • T+02:43: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:49: Fairing jettison
  • T+06:49: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
  • T+07:10: First stage entry burn cutoff
  • T+08:25: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T+08:47: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
  • T+08:49: First stage landing
  • T+56:38: Second stage restart
  • T+56:39: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 2)
  • T+1:02:55: Starlink satellite separation

MISSION STATS:

  • 141st launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 149th launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 11th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1058
  • 124th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 80th Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
  • 135th launch overall from pad 40
  • 84th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 37th dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites
  • 7th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
  • 7th launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 8th orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022
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