SpaceX gears up for another Falcon 9 launch attempt tonight – Spaceflight Now

Countdown and live coverage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Spaceport 40 at Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Starlink 4-34 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 54 Starlink broadband satellites.follow us Twitter.

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SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 rocket launch is now scheduled for Sunday at 8:18pm ET (0018pm GMT on Monday) to put another 54 Starlink internet satellites into orbit. The mission was delayed by five days due to thunderstorms around the launch site.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will launch SpaceX’s Starlink 4-34 mission. The weather outlook for Sunday night called for a 40 percent chance of acceptable liftoff conditions.

The SpaceX launch team canceled Tuesday night’s Falcon 9 countdown before it began loading propellant into the Falcon 9 rocket. Lightning brightened the sky on Florida’s Space Coast throughout the night. Similar weather conditions on Wednesday night forced officials to do another scrubbing before refueling, and SpaceX stopped the countdown Thursday night at about T-30 seconds because the weather was still “impossible” to launch.

A similar situation happened Friday night when SpaceX loaded propellant into a Falcon 9, but the countdown stopped at T minus 60 seconds. The team had originally aimed for another launch attempt on Saturday, but SpaceX announced Saturday night that the mission would be delayed until Sunday night.

The flight will mark SpaceX’s 42nd Falcon 9 launch so far in 2022. This will be the 40th space launch attempt from Florida’s Space Coast this year, including launches from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Astra.

When it takes off, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will release the satellite over the North Atlantic about 15 minutes after launch. The combined payload mass of the 54 Starlink satellites is approximately 36,800 pounds or 16.7 metric tons.

The Starlink 4-34 mission will be the third of as many as five Falcon 9 missions SpaceX has planned this month. Tom Ochinero, SpaceX’s vice president of commercial sales, said Tuesday at the World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris that the company is targeting more than 60 launches this year and 100 rocket missions by 2023, continuing to ramp up SpaceX’s launch cadence significantly.

The higher launch rate is due to shorter turnaround times between missions to the Florida and California launch pads, as well as SpaceX’s reuse of Falcon 9 boosters and payload fairings. Launching satellites for SpaceX’s own Starlink internet network, such as Friday night’s mission, has accounted for about two-thirds of the company’s Falcon 9 flights so far this year.

SpaceX began flying 54 Starlink satellites on a dedicated Falcon 9 flight last month, one more spacecraft than the company has typically launched on previous missions. SpaceX has experimented with different engine throttle settings and other subtle changes to improve the Falcon 9’s performance.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands on Launch Pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station before liftoff on the Starlink 4-34 mission.Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

SpaceX test-fired a Falcon 9 booster from the launch pad on Sept. 11 for the Starlink 4-34 mission. A static launch attempt on Sept. 10 was aborted when a severe thunderstorm swept through the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The booster, designated B1067 in SpaceX’s inventory of reusable rockets, will make its sixth spaceflight on Sunday night. The booster has previously launched two astronaut missions to the International Space Station, as well as two resupply flights to the space station. It also launched Turkey’s Turksat 5B communications satellite.

With Sunday night’s Starlink 4-34 mission, SpaceX will launch 3,347 Starlink internet satellites, including prototypes and test cells that are no longer in use. Saturday’s launch will be SpaceX’s 61st mission, primarily dedicated to putting the Starlink internet satellite into orbit.

SpaceX’s launch team, based in the launch control center south of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, will begin loading the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 with ultra-cold, dense kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant. in the rocket. 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 would have landed the rocket on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions,” about 400 miles (650 kilometers) away, about eight and a half minutes after takeoff.

Credit: Spaceflight Now

The Falcon 9’s reusable payload fairing will be discarded during the second stage burn. A recovery vessel is also stationed in the Atlantic to retrieve the nose cone halves after being splashed under a parachute.

The first-stage landing of Sunday’s mission will land immediately after the Falcon 9’s second-stage engines shut down to put the Starlink satellite into orbit. The separation of the 54 Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, from the Falcon 9 rocket is expected to be completed in T+15 minutes and 21 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 54 spacecraft will deploy solar arrays and operate through automated activation steps before maneuvering into their operational orbits using krypton-fueled ion engines.

The Falcon 9’s guidance computer is designed to deploy the satellite into an elliptical orbit inclined 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 service and connect to the network through ground terminals provided by SpaceX.

Rocket: Falcon 9 (B1067.6)

Payload: 54 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-34)

Launch Location: SLC-40, Space Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida

Launch Date: September 18, 2022

Launch time: 8:18pm ET (Sep 19 0018 GMT)

Weather forecast: 40% chance of acceptable weather; low upper-level wind risk; low risk of booster recovering from adverse conditions

Booster Recovery: ‘Just Read the Instructions’ Drone Ship East of Charleston, South Carolina

Launch Azimuth: northeast

Target Orbit: 144 miles x 208 miles (232 km x 336 km), 53.2 degrees inclination

Launch schedule:

  • T+00:00: Take off
  • T+01:12: Maximum Aerodynamic Pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:27: Level 1 mainframe shutdown (MECO)
  • T+02:31: Stage separation
  • T+02:36: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:42: Fairing jettisoned
  • T+06:48: Phase 1 enters combustion ignition (three engines)
  • T+07:07: The first stage enters the combustion cut-off
  • T+08:26: First stage landing combustion ignition (one engine)
  • T+08:40: Second stage engine shutdown (SECO 1)
  • T+08:47: First stage landing
  • T+15:21: Starlink satellite separation

Mission Statistics:

  • 176th Falcon 9 launch since 2010
  • 184th Falcon rocket series launch since 2006
  • Sixth launch of Falcon 9 booster B1067
  • 151st Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 97th Falcon 9 launch from Pad 40
  • 152nd launch from pad 40
  • The 118th flight of the reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 61st dedicated Falcon 9 launch using Starlink satellites
  • 42nd Falcon 9 launch in 2022
  • SpaceX’s 42nd launch in 2022
  • 40th orbital launch attempt at Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @Stephen Clark 1.

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