SpaceX stays busy with Starlink Group 4-6 launch

At 9:02 PM EST on January 18 (02:02 UTC on January 19), SpaceX launched one other batch of 49 Starlink satellites to orbit aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complicated 39A at NASA’s Kennedy House Heart (KSC). This launch time was an roughly 2-hour delay from the unique goal of seven:04 PM EST (00:02 UTC), which was forfeited in favor of the latter launch time previous to starting the countdown.

This was the third mission for SpaceX in 2022, as the corporate had already launched the Starlink Group 4-5 and Transporter-3 missions this month. As well as, this mission marked a fast turnaround for LC-39A, as Starlink Group 4-5 additionally launched from the identical pad on January 6.

This launch additionally adopted an identical trajectory to the final Starlink launch, flying southeast from Cape Canaveral.

Starlink is SpaceX’s broadband web constellation in low Earth orbit, with an operational altitude of round 550 km. Every satellite tv for pc contains a single photo voltaic panel and makes use of Corridor thrusters for propulsion.

In preparation for the mission, SpaceX’s latest autonomous spaceport drone ship, named “A Shortfall of Gravitas,” departed Port Canaveral on January 13, proper because the Transporter-3 mission was lifting off from SLC-40.

A Shortfall of Gravitas arrives at Port Canaveral for the primary time in July 2021. (Credit score: Julia Bergeron for NSF/L2)

The previous barge was transformed to a drone ship in Port Fourchon, LA, and work was accomplished in mid-2021. Additionally it is often called MARMAC 302. Each “A Shortfall of Gravitas” and “Simply Learn The Directions” are primarily based out of Port Canaveral, whereas ”Of Course I Nonetheless Love You” is predicated in California.

The drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” was final deployed on the Starlink Group 4-5 mission.

On January 15, the SpaceX restoration ship named Doug departed Port Canaveral for the restoration zone. The ship is known as after Demo-2 Astronaut Doug Hurley and is tasked with recovering the fairings from the ocean.

The Group 4-6 mission was initially focused for January 17 native time, however was delayed 24 hours to be able to benefit from extra favorable climate circumstances.

This Starlink mission, just like the final, took a southeastern trajectory, more likely to help first stage restoration efforts. That is believed to be an effort to keep away from the tough climate within the Atlantic Ocean in direction of the northeast within the winter months.

Previous Starlink missions had their restoration zone off the coast of the Carolinas. For the Group 4-6 mission, the drone ship was stationed close to the Abacos Islands within the Bahamas.

The booster supporting this mission is B1060-10, which made its tenth flight and is the fourth booster to achieve this milestone. The booster first launched in June 2020 for the GPS III SV03 mission and subsequently flew on Starlink missions, Turksat-5A, and Transporter-2.

This Falcon 9 final launched on December 2, 2021 on the Starlink Group 4-3 mission, making this a turnaround of slightly greater than a month for this particular booster.

Falcon 9 B1060 launches the Starlink Group 4-3 mission in December 2021. (Credit score: Stephen Marr for NSF)

The Falcon 9 was rolled out from the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) to the launch pad at LC-39A on January 16.


The launch sequence begins when the launch auto sequence is initiated on the Falcon 9 at T-35 minutes previous to launch. On the similar time, gasoline loading begins on the launch automobile with RP-1 Kerosene loading on each the primary and second levels. Loading of Liquid Oxygen (LOX) can also be began on the primary stage.

At T-20 minutes, the Transporter Erector (TE) conducts a big vent to purge propellant traces because the loading of RP-1 is accomplished. 4 minutes later, LOX loading on the second stage begins.

On the seven minute mark earlier than liftoff, the 9 Merlin 1D engines on the primary stage of the Falcon 9 rocket start to be chilled down in preparation for launch. This prevents thermal shock on the 9 engines from the Falcon 9’s super-chilled propellants.

Round 4 minutes and 25 seconds previous to launch, the TE begins to retract from the launch automobile.

Every of the tanks on each levels on the launch automobile proceed to be topped off with liquid propellants up till the T-two minutes mark. That is adopted by the Falcon 9 coming into “startup,” which is when the management of the automobile is handed off to the rocket’s onboard computer systems.

Ignition of the 9 Merlin 1D engines happens on the T-3 seconds mark. At T-0, the hold-down clamps on the pad launch, and the Falcon 9 is underway. Additionally, at launch, the TE retracts additional, defending it from the launch.

Because it ascends, the Falcon 9 pitches downrange and rolls to the correct launch azimuth to align the automobile on an inclination of 53.2 levels. Round one minute and 12 seconds after launch, the rocket skilled Most Aerodynamic Strain, or Max-Q, when the automobile skilled the utmost aerodynamic masses.

A Falcon 9 rocket ascends in direction of house in the course of the Starlink Group 4-5 mission. (Credit score: Stephen Marr for NSF/L2)

Round two minutes and 32 seconds into flight, the 9 Merlin 1D engines shut down in an occasion often called Most important Engine Lower Off or MECO. This was adopted by stage separation.

The only Merlin vacuum engine, or MVac, on the second stage ignited round T+ two minutes and 42 seconds into flight.

Subsequent, the fairings separated, which shield the Starlink satellites from the aerodynamic forces within the dense components of the ambiance. At across the similar time, the 4 titanium grid fins on the primary stage deployed.

At round T+ six minutes and 47 seconds into flight, the entry burn occurred on the primary stage of the Falcon 9. For this burn, three Merlin 1D engines have been used. After this burn was accomplished, the grid fins helped steer the primary stage because it descends.

The primary stage of Falcon 9 then landed on “A Shortfall of Gravitas” round 9 minutes after launch. Concurrently, the one MVac engine shut down.

After touchdown, a robotic referred to as Octagrabber exits a shelter on the drone ship and secures and safes the efficiently landed Falcon 9 booster.

Round quarter-hour after launch, the 49 Starlink satellites separated from the second stage into their preliminary orbit. Every satellite tv for pc will then individually maneuver to their operational orbits over the approaching weeks.

(Lead picture: Falcon 9 streaks southeast from Cape Canaveral. Credit score: Brady Kenniston for NSF)

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