Saturday, July 13, 2024

SpaceX launches one of its most complex missions to date – Spaceflight Now


Editor’s note: The Falcon 9 rocket took off at 9:20 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0120 GMT on Sunday). It would take more than two hours for all mission payloads to deploy. Check back for a full recap story after the mission is complete.

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Starlink 4-2 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 34 Starlink Internet satellites and passenger payloads for AST SpaceMobile’s satellite cellular broadband network. Follow us Twitter.

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The reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 booster completed its 14th flight into space after blasting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 9:20 p.m. EDT Saturday (0120 GMT Sunday). The mission is classified as one of SpaceX’s complex launches to date, with the goal of deploying 34 Starlink spacecraft and a test satellite for AST SpaceMobile’s satellite cellular broadband network.

The rocket’s upper stage will fire its engines five times Saturday night — four burns to deploy AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite and 34 Starlink payloads into two different orbits, then a final maneuver to return the upper stage to Earth’s atmosphere for a devastating response. Entry.

The five engine launches by the Falcon 9’s upper stage will be the most performed ever on a SpaceX mission, beating the previous record by one. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which flies on Saturday night, will become the commander of the SpaceX fleet.

The first stage, designated B1058, is a historic part of the SpaceX family of rockets. It launched for the first time on May 30, 2020, with the launch of SpaceX’s first astronaut mission on the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The booster craft landed on an unmanned ship in the Atlantic Ocean after a crew launch in 2020. It has flown 12 times since then, taking a South Korean military satellite into space and launching a resupply mission to the International Space Station, two small missions to share flights. Satellites. , and eight Starlink missions.

The launch from Platform 39A Saturday night is the first of two Falcon 9s SpaceX aircraft preparing for takeoff in quick succession. Another Falcon 9 rocket stands at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, a few miles south of Kennedy, to carry 54 Starlink satellites into orbit as soon as Sunday night.

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SpaceX has sent two rocket landing pads from Port Canaveral to the Atlantic Ocean. Reinforcements flying Saturday and Sunday will target landings on both drone ships stationed a few hundred miles northeast of Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX rolled out a Falcon 9 to platform 39A on Friday amid ongoing construction to equip its coastal launch complex as a future base for SpaceX’s massive reusable Super Heavy rocket and Starship rocket. Ground crews lifted the 229-foot (70 m) Falcon 9 vertically early Saturday on platform 39A, less than 12 hours before another Falcon 9 lifted upright on platform 40.

AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite is installed on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle converter inside SpaceX’s payload processing facility in Cape Canaveral. Credit: AST SpaceMobile

Joining the 34 Starlink satellites for Saturday night’s mission, BlueWalker 3 is a prototype for a planned fleet of spacecraft built and owned by Texas-based AST SpaceMobile. The AST SpaceMobile test satellite will launch an antenna array into low Earth orbit covering an area of ​​693 square feet (about 64 square metres), larger than a typical studio apartment. AST SpaceMobile aims to deploy an additional spacecraft in 2023 to begin building an operational network designed to connect consumer cell phones via satellite.

Abel Avelan, Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, said in a statement. This revolutionary technology supports our mission to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by the more than 5 billion mobile subscribers today moving in and out of coverage, and deliver cellular broadband to the nearly half of the world’s population that remains unconnected. We want to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.

The BlueWalker 3 rides in the upper position inside the Falcon 9’s payload canopy. The upper stage of the Falcon 9 will burn two engines before deploying the approximately 3,300-pound (1.5 metric tons) BlueWalker 3 satellite to an altitude of approximately 318 miles (513 kilometers). BlueWalker 3 is scheduled to disconnect about 50 minutes after takeoff.

Two more engines in the upper stage of the Falcon 9 will burn the rocket into a slightly lower orbit to deploy 34 Starlink satellites in about T+ plus 2 hours and 4 minutes. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said Saturday night’s launch will be “one of our most complex missions.”

“The BlueWalker 3 will be the largest commercially deployed communications suite in low Earth orbit ever,” said Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer, AST SpaceMobile. It measures 693 square feet and is designed to test direct cellular broadband engineering.

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“We are a company founded on the desire to build cellular broadband directly from space,” Wisniewski said. “We’ve been at it since 2017. This satellite is designed to communicate directly with cell phones, regular cell phones and unmodified cell phones on the ground and we’ll be testing that in the coming months.”

BlueWalker 3 antenna array during the ground propagation test. Credit: AST SpaceMobile

Some time in the first couple of months after launch, assuming the BlueWalker 3 is running fine, the ground controllers will send the command for the spacecraft to launch its array of antennas. The antenna consists of 148 individual sections, each with its own antenna elements, connected with mechanical hinges, according to Wisniewski.

“The detection process itself is very straightforward,” Wisniewski said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “Essentially, we compress the satellite into a cube and it opens up in two dimensions using energy stored in the hinges that held it together. What opens is a set of antenna elements going down toward the Earth, and solar elements going up toward the sun.”

“The key with all deployments is to keep it as simple as possible and as dumb as possible,” Wisniewski said. “What the James Webb Telescope has done has been amazing. But that level of complexity, we think, generates potential errors. And if you can avoid that, you do. We have, over the years, many more complex designs and in the future there are a lot of great ways To do that.But in the end, simple mechanical hinges were the best way to eliminate the risks.

“For us, the reveal…would be a critical milestone,” Wisniewski said. “And then we’ll do a calibration, and then we’ll start making phone calls.”

AST SpaceMobile is backed by venture capital funds and investments from Vodafone, cellular tower operator American Tower, and Japanese mobile operator Rakuten. The company has agreements with Samsung, Nokia, and mobile operators such as Vodafone, AT&T, and Orange to test the compatibility of the satellite cellular network with existing mobile phones.

BlueWalker 3 will showcase AST SpaceMobile technology with more than 10 mobile network operators across six continents. “Our goal is to calibrate their networks so we can communicate with them,” Wisniewski said.

If all goes well, the company plans to launch its first five operational satellites in late 2023, likely on another SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. AST SpaceMobile plans to eventually deploy 168 satellites.

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“This is all part of our plan to build 168 satellites globally,” Wisniewski said.

Rocket: Falcon 9 (B1058.14)

Payload: 34 satellites from Starlink (Starlink 4-2) and BlueWalker 3

launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Lunch date: September 10, 2022

launch time: 9:10:10 PM EST (0110:10 GMT)

weather forecast: 60% chance of acceptable weather; low risk of upper level winds; Reduced risk of conditions unfavorable to enhanced recovery

Recovery from reinforcement: Drone ship named “A Shortfall of Gravitas” east of Charleston, South Carolina

AZIMUTH LAUNCH: the Northeast

target orbit: approximately 318 miles (513 kilometers) for the BlueWalker 3; 201 miles by 207 miles (324 kilometers by 334 kilometers); tilt 53.2 degrees

Launch timeline:

  • T+00:00: take off
  • T+01: 12: maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:32: 1st stage for main engine cut-off (MICU)
  • T+02:35: Phase separation
  • T+02:42: ignition of the engine in the second stage (SES 1)
  • T+03:16: Get rid of the calm
  • T+06:17: Ignition of burning entering the first stage (three engines)
  • T+06:37: First stage entry combustion cut off
  • T+08:09: 1st stage burner ignition (single engine)
  • T+08:28: Second stage engine cut-off (SECO 1)
  • T+08:31: First stage landing
  • T+47: 16: Second stage engine ignition (SES 2)
  • T+47: 20: Engine cut-off in second stage (SECO 2)
  • T+49:51: BlueWalker 3 انفصال breakup
  • T + 1: 07: 36: second stage of engine ignition (SES 3)
  • T + 1: 07: 38: second stage engine cut-off (SECO 3)
  • T+1:53:56: second stage of engine ignition (SES 4)
  • T+1:54:05: second stage engine cut-off (SECO 4)
  • T+2: 03:49: Starlink satellite disconnect

Job stats:

  • The 175th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
  • The 183rd launch of the Falcon family since 2006
  • 14th launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1058
  • Falcon 9 150 launch from the Florida space coast
  • SpaceX’s 54th launch from platform 39A
  • 148th release overall from board 39A
  • Flight 117 of the reused Falcon 9 booster
  • The launch of Falcon 9 No. 60 is mainly dedicated to the Starlink network
  • Falcon 9 41 launch in 2022
  • Launching SpaceX41 in 2022
  • The 39th orbital launch attempt launched from Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Rosario Tejeda
Rosario Tejeda
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