SpaceX conducts first orbital launch of 2022 with Starlink Group 4-5

SpaceX launched one other batch of Starlink satellites to the fourth shell of the constellation for the primary world orbital launch try of the 12 months.

Lifting off from historic Launch Complicated 39A (LC-39A), the Starlink Group 4-5 mission lifted 49 Starlink v1.5 satellites southeastward from Kennedy right into a 210 x 339 km low Earth orbit with an inclination of 53.22 levels.

Following payload separation, the satellites will slowly elevate their orbit till they’re of their operational altitude of 540 km. This course of takes a number of months because of the low-thrust however high-efficiency Krypton ion thrusters on the Starlink satellites.

This mission will defy a long time of precedent, with SpaceX reaching the 53.22-degree orbit not through the northeast launch hall up the japanese seaboard of the USA and Canada, however reasonably through a southeast hall hugging the coast of the Bahamas because it performs a dogleg maneuver. 

This dogleg is the explanation why SpaceX is launching fewer Starlink satellites on this mission from the East coast in comparison with different launches from Florida, equivalent to Starlink Group 4-1 which launched 53 Starlink satellites.

Moreover, Starlink v1.5 satellites are roughly 10% extra huge than the v1.0 Starlink satellites, which is why Starlink Group 4-1 already noticed a decreased variety of lofted satellites in comparison with the Starlink v1.0 missions.

Stationed roughly 637 km downrange from LC-39A is SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG). ASOG was tugged to the touchdown zone by Zion M Falgout, a sister tug to the standard Finn Falgout, marking the primary time this vessel was used to tow an ASDS. 

The multi-purpose vessel Doug will present ASDS assist for the Starlink Group 4-5 mission and also will get better the fairings from the water, a course of often known as moist restoration.


The Falcon 9 booster supporting this mission was B1062-4. The booster was first used on the GPS-III-SV04 mission in November 2020, adopted by GPS-III-SV05 in June 2021. Most lately, the booster supported the all-private Inspiration4 crew launch in September 2021.

B1062’s missions Launch Date (UTC) Turnaround Time (Days)
GPS-III-SV04 November 5, 2020 N/A
GPS-III-SV05 June 17, 2021 224 days
Inspiration4 September 16, 2021 91 days
Starlink Group 4-5 January 6, 2022 112 days


The Starlink constellation, when full, will consist of 5 orbital shells; the primary quantity in Starlink Group 4-5 signifies that the launch is headed to shell 4. The second quantity signifies the mission quantity to that shell.

Mission numbers usually are not assigned chronologically and subsequently don’t launch so as. For instance, Starlink Group 4-5 is launching earlier than Starlink Group 4-2.

SpaceX’s principal precedence is at present to fill the fourth shell of Starlink, which can additional improve capability and scale back latency for patrons between 52 levels North and 52 levels South latitude. 

SpaceX has additionally deemed it vital to start filling shell two, whereas shells three and 5 are at present the bottom precedence, with the one launches to shell three being SpaceX’s Transporter smallsat rideshare missions.

Inclination (°) Orbital Altitude (km) Planes Satellites per Airplane Variety of Satellites At present Working Satellites
Shell 1 53.0 550 72 22 1,584 1,556
Shell 2 70.0 570 36 20 720 51
Shell 3 97.6 560 6 58 348 7
Shell 4 53.2 540 77 22 1,584 153
Shell 5 97.6 560 4 43 172 0

Forward of the launch, B1062 didn’t carry out a static fireplace. The rocket rolled out of the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) hours forward of launch the place it was then taken vertically by the Transporter-Erector (TE), often known as the strongback.

The TE is used to gasoline the second stage of the car, present structural assist whereas horizontal and vertical, present energy and air-con to the payload, and take the Falcon 9 from its horizontal to a vertical place.

At T-38 minutes, the Launch Director verified the car is GO for propellant loading. Pending all groups being GO, at T-35 minutes, SpaceX started loading subcooled RP-1 onto each the primary stage and the second phases in addition to super-chilled Liquid Oxygen (LOX) onto the primary stage.

Not like each different operational rocket, the Falcon 9 makes use of RP-1 that’s cooled to -7 levels C, and LOX that’s cooled to -205 levels C. This additional chilling will increase the density of the propellants, enabling SpaceX to get extra efficiency out of the Falcon 9 — one thing that’s essential for reuse.

This additionally comes with a trade-off: SpaceX is unable to carry the countdown as soon as gasoline loading has began — although there are post-fueling begin recycle factors to allow additional makes an attempt ought to a day by day launch window allow.

Simply earlier than T-20 minutes, a big vent from the TE marked the top of second stage RP-1 load and the purging of the TE strains forward of the beginning of LOX load to the second stage at T-16 minutes.

At T-7 minutes, the Falcon 9 entered chill down when a small quantity of liquid oxygen is allowed to enter the 9 Merlin 1D engines on the primary stage. This course of is finished to chill down the engines slowly so they don’t crack from thermal shock when tremendous chilled LOX begins to movement by means of them at full quantity at engine ignition.

Falcon 9 B1062 lifts off from LC-39A on the Inspiration4 mission in September 2021 – through Julia Bergeron for NSF/L2

At T-1 minute, the Falcon 9 entered start-up and start pressurizing its tanks for flight. At this level, Falcon 9 is totally in control of its countdown, and all technical aborts from this level ahead can be dealt with by the car itself and never the bottom operators. Launch controllers are then solely capable of abort the Falcon 9 in case of a climate or vary violation.

At T-45 seconds, the Launch Director verified all positions are go for launch.

The booster’s flight laptop commanded the ignition of the primary stage’s Merlin 1D engines at T-3 seconds. The engines on the primary stage ignite in pairs inside milliseconds of one another to scale back startup transients and hundreds on the car.

As soon as the computer systems have ensured all techniques are nominal, the Falcon 9 will command the hydraulic clamps on the base of the car to launch, letting the Falcon 9 carry off from the pad.

B1062 burned for about two and a half minutes earlier than shutting down — as soon as once more in a staggered formation to scale back hundreds on the car.

4 pneumatic pushers — three radially across the interstage and one within the middle of the interstage — will then push the phases aside. The second stage’s single vacuum optimized Merlin will ignite seconds later.

After coasting as much as its apogee and starting its descent, B1062 carried out two burns to softly contact down on A Shortfall of Gravitas. The primary burn — referred to as the Entry Burn — makes use of three Merlin 1D engines (engines E1, E5, and E9), whereas the second burn — referred to as the Touchdown Burn — makes use of solely the middle engine, E9.

A Shortfall of Gravitas — through Julia Bergeron for NSF/L2)

E1, E5, and E9 are the one engines able to restarting in-flight as they’ve TEA-TEB canisters to carry ignition fluid.

The second stage, in the meantime, continued burning towards orbit. At round three minutes after launch, the car commanded the latches connecting the fairing halves to launch. Shortly after, the fairing halves have been pushed aside utilizing the 4 pneumatic pushers saved within the energetic fairing half.

The fairing halves then use RCS thrusters to reenter into the Earth’s environment, earlier than deploying a parafoil to softly land within the water. They’ll then be recovered by SpaceX’s fairing restoration vessel, Doug.

About 9 minutes after launch, the second stage shut down its Merlin Vacuum engine. From this level, the car used its RCS thrusters to start out rotating round its X-axis.

At T+quarter-hour 31 seconds, the car command deployment of the strain rods used to maintain the stack of Starlink satellites collectively, and the satellites will slowly drift away from the second stage.

Shortly after, the second stage will carry out a deorbit burn and a stage propulsive passivation.

SpaceX at present has 4 further launches scheduled for January 2022: Transporter-3, which is launching from Area Launch Complicated 40 on January 14; CSG-2 in late January; and as much as two extra Starlink missions.

(Lead picture: Julia Bergeron for NSF)

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