Live coverage of the countdown and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Site 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Starlink 4-26 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites.follow us Twitter.
SpaceX will count down on Tuesday with the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and 52 other Starlink internet satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The commercial mission is scheduled to launch into low-Earth orbit at 6:57 p.m. ET (2257 GMT), where the Falcon 9’s reusable first stage will target the landing of an unmanned ship at sea.
According to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 70 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff on Tuesday.
The Falcon 9 rocket will travel northeast from the Kennedy Space Center and is designed to deliver flat-pack broadband relay stations to orbits between 144 miles and 208 miles (232 x 338 kilometers) above sea level. Falcon 9’s upper stage’s 52 flat satellites will deploy about 15 minutes after liftoff.
Through Tuesday’s mission, designated Starlink 4-26, SpaceX will launch 3,09 Starlink internet satellites, including prototypes and test cells that are no longer in use. Tuesday’s launch will mark SpaceX’s 54th mission, primarily dedicated to putting the Starlink internet satellite into orbit.
SpaceX’s launch team, stationed in the launch chamber at Kennedy’s Launch Control Center, will begin loading the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 vehicle with ultra-cold, dense kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant, T minus 35 minutes.
Helium will also flow into the rocket during the last half-hour of the countdown. In the final seven minutes before takeoff, the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will be thermally conditioned to fly through a procedure called “cooling.” The Falcon 9’s guidance and range safety systems will also be configured for launch.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will direct its 1.7 million pounds of thrust—generated by nine Merlin engines—to the northeast over the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket will surpass the speed of sound in about a minute, then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The booster stage will be released from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, which will then fire pulses from the cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium mesh fins to help guide the vehicle back into the atmosphere.
Two brake burns will allow the rocket to land on the 400-mile (650-kilometer) drone ship “gravity shortage” about eight and a half minutes after takeoff.
The booster flown on the Starlink 4-26 mission, called B1073, will launch on its third trip to space. It first launched the Starlink program in May, before flying again on June 29 using the commercial SES 22 television broadcast satellite.
The first-stage landing of Tuesday’s mission will land immediately after the Falcon 9’s second-stage engines shut down to put the Starlink satellite into orbit. The planned separation of the 52 spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, took T++15 minutes and 24 seconds.
The fixed poles will be released from the Starlink payload stack, allowing the flat-packed satellites to fly freely from Falcon 9’s upper orbit. The 52 spacecraft will deploy their solar arrays and run through automated activation steps before maneuvering into their orbits using krypton-fueled ion engines.
The Falcon 9’s guidance computer is designed to deploy the satellite into an elliptical orbit with an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees from the equator. The satellite will use onboard thrusters to do the rest to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.
Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “hulls” of varying inclinations of SpaceX’s global internet network. After reaching its operational orbit, the satellite will enter commercial service and begin sending broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase Starlink services and connect to the network through ground terminals provided by SpaceX.
Rocket: Falcon 9 (B1073.3)
Payload: 52 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-26)
Launch Location: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Launch Date: August 9, 2022
Launch time: 6:57:40 PM ET (2257:40 GMT)
Weather forecast: 70% acceptable weather; low upper-level wind risk; low risk of booster recovering from adverse conditions
Booster Recovery: ‘Gravity Shortage’ Drones East of Charleston, South Carolina
Launch Azimuth: northeast
Target track: 144 miles x 208 miles (232 km x 335 km), 53.2-degree inclination
- T+00:00: Take off
- T+01:12: Maximum Aerodynamic Pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:26: Level 1 mainframe shutdown (MECO)
- T+02:30: Stage separation
- T+02:36: Second stage engine ignition
- T+02:41: Fairing jettisoned
- T+06:45: Stage 1 enters combustion ignition (three engines)
- T+07:06: The first stage enters the combustion cut-off
- T+08:19: First stage landing combustion ignition (one engine)
- T+08:43: Second stage engine shutdown (SECO 1)
- T+08:44: First stage landing
- T+15:24: Starlink satellite separation
- 169th Falcon 9 launch since 2010
- 177th Falcon series launch since 2006
- Third launch of Falcon 9 booster B1073
- 146th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
- 53rd SpaceX launch from Pad 39A
- 147th launch from Pad 39A
- The 111th flight of the reused Falcon 9 booster
- 54th dedicated Falcon 9 launch using Starlink satellites
- 35th Falcon 9 launch in 2022
- SpaceX launches 35th launch in 2022
- 35th orbital launch attempt at Cape Canaveral in 2022
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