June 25, 2021

The Falcon 9 sets a fair reuse mark with the launch of the SpaceX Starling

WASHINGTON – A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched another set of Starling satellites on May 26, highlighting a feature often overlooked in the company’s reuse efforts.

The Falcon 9 was launched from the Space Launch Complex at Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida at 2:59 p.m. The top level of the rocket launched its 60 Starling satellites into orbit 64 minutes later.

The first stage of the rocket landed eight and a half minutes after the liftoff in the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike some recent Starling launches where the Falcon 9 boosters were launched 10 times, this Falcon 9 first phase was only in its second launch, previously used in November to launch the Sentinel-6 Michael Freelich marine science satellite 2020.

SpaceX set a different kind of reuse milestone in this release. One of the two parts of the payload fairing was in its fifth flight, the first time a payload fairing unit flew five times. The previous four Starling missiles have flown since 2019. The second fair half was in its third launch, which was previously a Starling release and was used on the Transporter-1 Riteshare Mission in January.

This release is the 40th Falcon 9 mission to fly at least half of a reusable payload fairing. The company quietly used previously flown payload ferries, which deploy parachutes after being detached from the top of the rocket and rescued at sea by boats.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said years ago that the company would try to recover and reuse payload justifications because of their cost: about 6 million each. “Imagine if you had $ 6 million in a reef, it was going to be smashed into the sea. Are you trying to recover it? Yes, yes you would like to,” Musk said after launching its first reusable Falcon 9 in 2017.

Unlike the booster landings that the company broadcasts on its launch webcasts, reasonable restorations take place out of sight. SpaceX will occasionally provide videos of people trying to capture landing exhibitions on large nets built above ships, but most recently moved to recover justice from the water after Splashtown.

The launch also marked the 100th successful Falcon 9 launch in a row, which began in June 2015 after NASA’s failed commercial cargo mission. When a Falcon 9 erupted during preparations for a fixed-fire test days ahead of a scheduled launch in September 2016, there was no loss of the Amos-6 satellite on that streak.

The launch brings the total number of Starling satellites in orbit to 1,664. Vyasat filed a resolution with the Federal Communications Committee on May 21 seeking approval to modify SpaceX’s license. This allows the company to increase the number of Starling satellites operating in orbit from 1,584 to 4,408 at an altitude of 550 km. This will prevent SpaceX from launching additional satellites until the FCC completes the environmental study of the galaxy requested by Vyasat.

The FCC is not yet operational, and SpaceX did not mention the controversy on its release webcast, noting that the company has expanded its beta test of the Starling service to residents of Belgium and the Netherlands.