May 23, 2022

Live coverage: SpaceX launches another Starlink mission

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Starlink 4-10 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 48 Starlink broadband satellites. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

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SpaceX’s next batch of 48 Starlink internet satellites rode a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit Wednesday. SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 at 8:45 a.m. EST (1345 GMT) from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The mission continued SpaceX’s weekly launch cadence this year. It was SpaceX’s 10th mission of 2022, and came six days after the most recent Starlink mission on March 3.

Wednesday’s mission, designated Starlink 4-10, mimicked SpaceX’s recent Starlink launches from Florida’s Space Coast. The Falcon 9 rocket, powered by nine Merlin 1D engines, steered southeast from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Arcing over the Atlantic Ocean, the rocket’s first stage booster turned off its main engines and separated from the Falcon 9’s upper stage at T+plus 2 minutes, 34 seconds. While the second stage powered into orbit with the 48 Starlink satellites, the first stage came back to Earth for a landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” parked in the Atlantic northeast of the Bahamas.

The reusable booster flying Tuesday made its fourth launch into space. The rocket, tail number B1052, flew its first two missions as a side booster on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. After a conversion effort, SpaceX flew the booster again as the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket Jan. 31 with an Italian radar remote sensing satellite.

Now, 37 days later, the booster took off for a fourth time. After a hypersonic descent back into the atmosphere, rocket landed on SpaceX’s drone ship at T+plus 8 minutes, 51 seconds, around 400 miles (650 kilometers) southeast of Cape Canaveral. The vessel will return the booster to Port Canaveral for offloading and refurbishment before another mission.

The second stage shut down at T+plus 8 minutes, 45 seconds, after reaching a parking orbit. Following a 48-minute coast halfway around the world, the Falcon 9 relit its second stage engine for a one-second burn to place the Starlink satellites into the proper orbit for deployment.

The Falcon 9 released the flat-packed satellites, each weighing about a quarter-ton, nearly 66 minutes after launch. The rocket’s guidance computer targeted an orbit ranging between 189 miles and 197 miles (305-by-317 kilometers) in altitude, with an inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator.

The Starlink satellites will extend solar arrays and use on-board ion thrusters to reach their operational orbit at an altitude of 335 miles (540 kilometers), where they will enter commercial service for SpaceX.

Read our mission preview story for more details.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1052.4)

PAYLOAD: 48 Starlink satelllites (Starlink 4-10)

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

LAUNCH DATE: March 9, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 8:45:10 a.m. EST (1345:10 GMT)

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

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

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Southeast

TARGET ORBIT: 189 miles by 197 miles (305 kilometers by 317 kilometers), 53.2 degrees inclination

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T+00:00: Liftoff
  • T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:30: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
  • T+02:34: Stage separation
  • T+02:41: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:45: Fairing jettison
  • T+06:50: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
  • T+07:12: First stage entry burn cutoff
  • T+08:25: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T+08:45: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
  • T+08:51: First stage landing
  • T+56:50: Second stage restart
  • T+56:51: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 2)
  • T+1:05:52: Starlink satellite separation

MISSION STATS:

  • 144th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 152nd launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 4th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1052
  • 126th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 81st Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
  • 136th launch overall from pad 40
  • 87th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 40th dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites
  • 10th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
  • 10th launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 11th orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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