Live coverage of the countdown and the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Starlink 4-34 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 54 large-scale Starlink satellites. Follow us Twitter.
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Sunday night after five days of delays due to weather, moving 54 more Starlink satellites into orbit as the company continues to push it toward completing more than 60 missions this year.
The 229-foot (60-meter) Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 8:18:40 p.m. EDT (0018:40 GMT Monday) to begin SpaceX’s Starlink 4-34 mission. Powered by nine kerosene-fuelled Merlin 1D engines, the Falcon 9 took off and launched into the night sky while flying northeast from Platform 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
The mission finally began after a five-day delay, which began Tuesday night when the launch team canceled the countdown before beginning to load propellant into the Falcon 9 rocket. Flashes of lightning lit up the sky over the Florida space coast throughout the evening. Similar weather conditions Wednesday night forced officials to call another scrub before the tank, and SpaceX halted the countdown at about a T-minus 30 seconds Thursday night as the weather remained “forbidden” for the launch.
It was a similar story Friday night when SpaceX loaded up with fuel in the Falcon 9, but stopped the countdown inside the 60-second T-minus. The teams initially targeted another launch attempt on Saturday, but SpaceX announced Saturday night that the mission would be delayed until Sunday night.
This flight marked the launch of SpaceX’s 42 Falcon 9 so far in 2022. It was the 40th attempt to launch public space from the Florida space coast this year, including launches by SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and Astra.
About 15 minutes after liftoff, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket launched 54 Starlink satellites over the North Atlantic Ocean moving at about 17,000 miles per hour. The satellites totaled about 36,800 pounds, or 16.7 metric tons, in payload mass.
Starlink 4-34 mission was the third of as many as five Falcon 9 missions on SpaceX’s schedule this month. Tom Ochinero, SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales, said last week at the Global Satellite Business Week conference in Paris that the company aims to complete more than 60 launches this year, aim for 100 rocket missions in 2023, and continue the massive increase in launch cadence. SpaceX.
The higher launch rate was supported by shorter lead times between missions at launch pads in Florida and California, and SpaceX’s reuse of Falcon 9 boosters and payload fairing. Launches carrying satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink internet network, such as the Sunday night mission, have accounted for about two-thirds of Falcon 9’s flights so far this year.
Starlink’s next Falcon 9 launch was scheduled for September 19 from Cape Canaveral, but it will likely be delayed until the last week of September as a ripple effect of weather-related peelers for the Starlink 4-34 mission.
SpaceX began launching 54 Starlink satellites on dedicated Falcon 9 flights last month, one more spacecraft than the company has typically launched on previous missions. SpaceX has experimented with different throttle settings and other minor changes to extend the performance of the Falcon 9.
SpaceX tested a Falcon 9 booster for the Starlink 4-34 mission at the launch pad on September 11. A stationary shooting attempt was aborted on September 10 when a powerful thunderstorm swept through the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.
The booster that flew Sunday night’s B1067 is assigned to SpaceX’s inventory of reusable rockets. The booster previously launched two astronaut missions toward the International Space Station, as well as two resupply flights to the station. It also launched the Turkish communications satellite Turksat 5B.
The first stage completed its sixth flight into space Sunday night, culminating in a landing on the target aboard a SpaceX drone parked in the Atlantic Ocean.
With the Starlink 4-34 mission, SpaceX has now launched 3,347 Starlink Internet satellites, including prototypes and test units that are no longer in service. Saturday’s launch was SpaceX’s 61st mission primarily dedicated to moving Starlink’s internet satellites into orbit.
The SpaceX launch team, stationed inside the Launch Control Center south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, began loading ultra-cold, condensed kerosene and liquid oxygen thrusters into the Falcon 9 spacecraft on the T-minus 35 minutes.
Compressor helium also poured into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. In the last seven minutes before takeoff, the Falcon 9 Merlin’s main engines were thermally adapted to fly by a procedure known as “chilldown”. The Falcon 9’s guidance system and range safety are also configured for firing.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket directed its 1.7 million pounds of force – produced by nine Merlin engines – to steer in the northeast Atlantic.
The missile exceeded the speed of sound in about one minute, and then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after takeoff. The boost stage was fired from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then fired pulses from cold gas control thrusters and extending titanium grille fins to help steer the vehicle back into the atmosphere.
Brake burns slowed the missile as it landed aboard the “read instructions only” drone about 400 miles (650 kilometers) after about eight and a half minutes of take-off.
The Falcon 9’s reusable payload fairing was discarded during second stage combustion. The rescue ship was also at the station in the Atlantic to retrieve the halves of the nose cone after they had been sprayed under the parachutes.
The first-stage landing on Sunday’s mission occurred moments after the Falcon 9’s second-stage engine failed to deliver Starlink satellites into orbit. The 54 Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, has been confirmed to separate from the Falcon 9 rocket at T+ plus 15 minutes and 21 seconds.
Retaining rods were fired from the Starlink payload stack, allowing the flat-packed satellites to fly freely from the Falcon 9’s upper stage into orbit. The 54 spacecraft will launch and power the solar arrays through automated activation steps, then use krypton-fueled ion engines to maneuver into their operational orbit.
The Falcon 9’s guidance computer aims to deploy the satellites into an elliptical orbit at an inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator. The satellites will use onboard thrust to do the rest of the work to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.
Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “shells” in different directions to SpaceX’s global Internet. After reaching their operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin transmitting broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase Starlink service and connect to the network through a ground station provided by SpaceX.
Rocket: Falcon 9 (B1067.6)
Payload: 54 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-34)
launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida
Lunch date: September 18 2022
launch time: 8:18:40 PM EST (0018:40 GMT on Sept. 19)
weather forecast: 40% chance of acceptable weather; low risk of upper level winds; Reduced risk of conditions unfavorable to enhanced recovery
Recovery from reinforcement: Unmanned ship with the slogan “Just read the instructions” east of Charleston, South Carolina
AZIMUTH LAUNCH: the Northeast
target orbit: 144 miles by 208 miles (232 kilometers by 336 kilometers), 53.2 degrees miles
- T+00:00: take off
- T+01: 12: maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:27: First stage main engine cut-off (MECO)
- T+02:31: Phase separation
- T+02:36: Ignite the engine in the second stage
- T+02:42: Get rid of the calm
- T+06:48: first stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
- T+07:07: first stage entry combustion cut off
- T+08:26: 1st stage combustion ignition (single engine)
- T+08:40: Second stage engine cut-off (SECO 1)
- T+08:47: First stage landing
- T+15:21: Starlink satellite disconnect
- The 176th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
- The 184th launch of the Falcon family since 2006
- Sixth launch of Falcon 9 Booster B1067
- The 151st Falcon 9 launched from the Florida Space Coast
- Launch of Falcon 9 No. 97 from the 40 . platform
- Launch 152 from pad 40
- Flight 118 of the reused Falcon 9 booster
- The launch of the 61st dedicated Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
- Falcon 9 42nd launch in 2022
- The 42nd launch by SpaceX in 2022
- The 40th orbital launch attempt from Cape Canaveral in 2022
Send an email to the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: Tweet embed.
“Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver.”