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SpaceX counts down to launch with 53 other Starlink satellites – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Starlink 4-16 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites. follow us on Twitter.

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SpaceX is counting down to the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at 5:27 p.m. EDT (2127 GMT) Friday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. A booster that already flew just 21 days ago will carry 53 more Starlink internet satellites into space.

There is an 80% chance that the weather conditions will be favorable for the takeoff Friday of SpaceX’s 151st Falcon 9 mission and the 43rd flight mainly dedicated to transporting Starlink satellites. The main weather concern is cumulus clouds.

The first-stage booster – tail number B1062 – will aim to land on the “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship positioned roughly east of Charleston, South Carolina, about eight and a half minutes after launch.

SpaceX crews at Cape Canaveral rolled the Falcon 9 rocket from its hangar at pad 40 at Cape Canaveral and raised it vertically early Friday. Starting at T-minus 35 minutes, the launch team will oversee the loading of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants into Falcon 9 via an automated computer-controlled sequencer.

Pressurized helium will also be injected into the rocket. During the last seven minutes of the countdown, Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will be thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “cooling down”. Falcon 9’s range guidance and safety systems will also be configured for a 5:27 p.m. launch.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will pivot to fly northeast of Cape Canaveral over the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket will exceed the speed of sound in about a minute, then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The thruster will detach, fire pulses from cold gas thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help bring the vehicle back into the atmosphere, and use brake burns with its main engines to slow down to land on the drone at about 400 miles (650 kilometers). ) downstream.

This booster is set to launch on its sixth mission, following a first flight in November 2020 with a GPS navigation satellite, and another GPS launch in June last year. He flew again on September 14 with the all-private crewed mission Inspiration4 and performed a Starlink mission to space on January 6, before his final flight on April 8 on the Ax-1 commercial crewed mission from Axiom to the space station.

A Falcon 9 rocket stands on pad 40 Friday. Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

Continuing flight into orbit, the Falcon 9 upper stage engine will shut down nearly nine minutes into the mission, moments after the first stage landed downriver in the Atlantic Ocean.

After traversing the North Atlantic, Europe and the Middle East, and then crossing the Indian Ocean, the upper stage will re-ignite its engine for a brief two-second firing to maneuver the 53 Starlink satellites into the proper orbit for the separation.

Falcon 9’s guidance computer aimed to release the flat-panel satellites just an hour after launch into an orbit between 189 miles and 197 miles (304 by 317 kilometers) above Earth, with an inclination of 53. 2 degrees from the equator.

The Starlink satellites will extend solar arrays and use onboard ion thrusters to reach their operational orbit at an altitude of 335 miles (540 kilometers), where they will enter commercial service for SpaceX.

After Thursday’s mission, SpaceX will have launched 2,441 Starlink satellites so far, including spacecraft that have been taken out of service or suffered failures. More than 2,100 of those satellites are in orbit and functioning as of Thursday, according to a list kept by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist who closely tracks spaceflight activity.

Read our mission preview story for more details.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1060.12)

PAYLOAD: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-16)

LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

RELEASE DATE: April 29, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 5:27:10 p.m. EDT (9:27:10 p.m. GMT)

WEATHER FORECAST: 80% chance of acceptable time; Low risk of adverse conditions for booster recovery

BOOSTER RECOVERY: “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship east of Charleston, SC


TARGET ORBIT: 189 by 197 miles (304 by 317 kilometers), 53.2 degree incline


  • T+00:00: Takeoff
  • T+01:12: Maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:31: First stage main engine shutdown (MECO)
  • T+02:35: Floor separation
  • T+02:42: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:50: Fairing jettison
  • T+06:13: First stage inlet combustion ignition (three engines)
  • T+06:32: First floor inlet burn shutdown
  • T+08:02: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T+08:24: First stage landing
  • T+08:49: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 1)
  • T+45:22: Second stage restart
  • T+45:24: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 2)
  • T+59:30: Separation of Starlink satellites


  • 151st launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 159th launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
  • 6th launch of the Falcon 9 booster B1062
  • Launch of the 132nd Falcon 9 from the Space Coast of Florida
  • Launch of the 85th Falcon 9 from pad 40
  • 140th total launch from pad 40
  • 94th flight of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
  • 43rd dedicated launch of Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
  • Launch of the 17th Falcon 9 in 2022
  • 17th launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 17th orbital launch based at Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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