SpaceX Marks First Launch Anniversary With Starlink Mission | SpaceX Starship & Falcon Heavy Update

SpaceX Marks First Launch Anniversary With Starlink Mission | SpaceX Starship & Falcon Heavy Update

Today we are going to start with great news for SpaceX fans as the company added another Starlink launch to their list on the very day when 15 years ago SpaceX first launched a rocket, an unsuccessful flight of falcon 1. 

On Wednesday, March 24, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched another batch of 60   Starlink satellites into orbit. It was 4:28 a.m. ET, when SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9  rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying 60 Starlink satellites. “Liftoff!” SpaceX stated. 



After that Falcon 9’s second stage deployed the satellites into low Earth orbit 64 minutes later. Wednesday’s launch marked the fourth Starlink mission of this month and a total of nine falcons 9 launches this year. 

The live broadcast kicked off eleven minutes prior to the launch. SpaceX’s production supervisor Andy Tran started the broadcast with a live view of the Falcon 9 rocket. Like any other SpaceX launches, Falcon 9 entered the engine chilling process seven minutes prior to the lift-off. 


Also Read: SpaceX Starship landing leg upgrades Concept | NASA Perseverance makes its first drive on Mars

With a spectacular view, the vehicle lifted off on a cloudy morning in Florida. Approximately nine minutes after the launch, Falcon 9 first stage booster returned to earth and performed a successful landing on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship.   

Falcon 9’s first stage booster, called B1060 marked its sixth flight for this mission. The booster previously launched in the Turksat 5A and GPS satellite mission as well as three other Starlink missions. “This is the sixth landing for this booster and the 78th landing overall,” Tran said during the broadcast. “What a way to start the day.” “With more than 100 successful flights of falcon 9  and 78 recoveries of our first stage to date, we’ve made a lot of progress since then,”   he stated, referring to the fifteenth anniversary of SpaceX’s first flight. 

SpaceX has this most incredible timeline for rocket launches, where the company launched more than 100 successful Falcon 9 launches. SpaceX also launched three falcon heavy launches in 2018-19. But this launch streak first started on March 24, 2006, when SpaceX attempted its first-ever launch with falcon 1 rocket. 

The rocket lifted off from  Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean but soon its first stage suffered from a single-engine failure. After that, SpaceX launched two Falcon 1 launches but that failed also. Finally, in September 2008, a fourth falcon 1 rocket reached orbit first time with a test payload.   

After one more mission, falcon 1 leaves its job to its successor falcon 9, which came in 2010. SpaceX continuously increasing the size of its Starlink constellation, which now has more than 1,300 satellites in orbit. According to the information, less than 2% of Starlink constellations have suffered from some kind of issue and 1% burned up in the earth’s atmosphere.   



Apart from that, SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are holding their ground to deliver fast internet connection for the customers. The production rate of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites is also notable. Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX vice president for the Starlink program, stated in a conference, “We’re currently building roughly six satellites a day at our factory in Seattle, which is pretty remarkable.” “We’re already working on the Gen 2 constellation,” he added.   “These satellites will be continuously refreshed as we continue to increase both the network capacity and the density by orders of magnitude. 

We’re excited to be able to eventually provide a lot more internet than we’re even doing now.” Since 2008, SpaceX has come a long way in improving its launch infrastructure. The company is targeting more launches than the previous year. “SpaceX is developing rockets needed to make life multi-planetary - full & rapid reusability at large scale. Even if SpaceX fails in that goal, the rockets will still be most advanced on Earth,” SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk stated on Twitter.  “Starlink’s purpose is to provide Internet to the least served & to pay for Mars.”  


SpaceX Fires Up a Dozen Falcon Starship Rocket Engines in Six Hours

SpaceX is about to launch its current starship, which is SN11. These starship vehicles are tested in SpaceX’s Boca Chica starship hub. It is known to be the busiest Texas outpost where SpaceX conducts half a dozen or more rocket tests on busy days. 

Last week, on Friday (March 19) SpaceX conducted a number of rapid-fire activities at McGregor Texas facilities. According to the information, SpaceX has been testing Falcon, Dragon, and Starship parts and supporting each program’s development at McGregor. SpaceX properly tests each stage of nine Merlin 1D engines in McGregor after that those engines are shipped to Hawthorne.   



In Hawthorne, these engines are installed on a Falcon 9 booster (first stage) then shipped back to McGregor for static fire test. A similar process is done with Falcon 9’s second stage. SpaceX also does the same with raptor engines and cold-gas thrusters that are used in the starship. 

On March 19, a number of different engines and vehicles came together at McGregor.   There SpaceX performed at least five unique tests in just six hours, which includes Merlin Vacuum or Merlin 1D engine, Falcon Heavy center core, and two raptor engines.   


Also Read: SpaceX Starship: SpaceX rapidly builds, tests Moon elevator for NASA | Starlink now in Malaysia

Falcon Heavy center core is for the upcoming two falcon heavy launches (USSF 44 and USSF 52).   After completing the static fire, now SpaceX engineers will inspect the booster before shipping it to Florida to complete the first stage of SpaceX’s fourth Falcon Heavy rocket. It is scheduled to launch as early as July. According to the information, SpaceX tested a booster and 13 (9+4) rocket engines in that period. 


Rocket Lab Launching Smallest Rideshare Mission 

On Monday, March 22, California-based Rocket Lab launched its Electron rocket, carrying six small satellites for a variety of commercial and government customers. 



It was a crucial mission for the company, in which they demonstrated the performance of its own smallsat bus. The launch took place at Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Eight and a half minutes after the lift-off, the rocket deployed its kick stage. “The kick Stage, or Photon on this mission, will now coast for around 50 minutes before the Curie engine ignites to circularize the stage’s orbit ahead of its payload deployment,” Rocket Lab officials stated on Twitter. A few minutes later, the electron rocket deployed five payloads into a 550 km circular orbit.   

Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck stated on Twitter, “5 of the 6 payloads deployed to perfect final orbits. We have 2 burns of the Curie engine to lower apogee and perigee  before deployment of the final satellite.” As per that, the kick stage of the electron rocket performed two more burns of its Curie engine to release the final payload in a perfect 450 km orbit. 

After deploying the sixth payload, he added, “Final payload deployed in a perfect flight.   Next, we wake up photon!” Rocket Labs Electron rocket carried a total of six satellites, which includes two  6U CubeSats built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems; Gunsmoke-J, a 3U CubeSat developed by the U.S.   Army Space and Missile Defense Command; a 1U technology demonstration satellite by Care Weather  Technologies; and M2 that is a 12U spacecraft from University of New South Wales Canberra Space.   



Lastly the biggest payload of this launch, a Gen-2 satellite developed by a satellite imaging company BlackSky. It was the seventh satellite of that series, deployed to the lower orbit. “Happy to announce that we successfully contacted BlackSky 7 within an hour of   separation from the launch vehicle!” BlackSky officials stated on Twitter. 

Among six launches, The Gunsmoke-J satellite snatched most of the attention. TriSept arranged this launch. Now the Gunsmoke-J was part of controversy because some organizations believed that the U.S. military could use this satellite for targeting weapons, specifically nuclear weapons. 

They asked the government to suspend the licenses for that satellite. However, SMDC described Gunsmoke-J as a demonstration of technologies, saying,   “that could assist the ground force commander in long-range precision fires and other activities.” 

In the end, the New Zealand government did not abort the launch. After this launch, the company Rocket Lab   is expecting more successful satellite launches in near future. “6 satellites, 2 different orbits,   3 engine burns of the upper stage and a Photon, Congratulations team!” Peter stated. 

Also Read: SpaceX Starship |Super Heavy BN1 Fully Stacked, Creating Largest Rocket Booster Ever Built


Source: ENGINEERING TODAY

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