Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 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 on Twitter.
SpaceX is counting down to the liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket and 52 other Starlink internet satellites on Tuesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The commercial mission is scheduled for launch into low Earth orbit at 10:14 p.m. EDT (02:14 GMT), and the reusable Falcon 9 first stage will target an offshore drone landing.
The launch team bypassed a launch opportunity at 6:57 p.m. EDT (2257 GMT) due to unfavorable winds aloft. According to the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, there’s a 70% chance the weather will be favorable for liftoff on Tuesday.
The Falcon 9 rocket will head northeast from Kennedy Space Center, aiming to deliver the Broadband Relay Stations flat to an orbit between 144 miles and 208 miles in altitude (232 by 338 kilometers). The deployment of the 52 flat satellites from the upper stage of Falcon 9 will take place approximately 15 minutes after liftoff.
With Tuesday’s mission, designated Starlink 4-26, SpaceX will have launched 3,09 Starlink internet satellites, including prototypes and test units that are no longer in service. Tuesday’s launch will mark the 54th SpaceX mission primarily dedicated to carrying Starlink internet satellites into orbit.
Stationed in a firing suite at a launch control center in Kennedy, the SpaceX launch team will begin loading super-chilled and densified kerosene and liquid oxygen boosters into the 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 vehicle. (70 meters) at T-minus 35 minutes.
Pressurizing helium will also flow into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. During the last seven minutes before liftoff, 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 launch.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will direct its 1.7 million pounds of thrust – produced by nine Merlin engines – to head northeast 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 booster stage will exit from the Falcon 9 upper stage, then fire pulses from cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help bring the vehicle back into the atmosphere.
Two brake burns will slow the rocket to land on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” approximately 400 miles (650 kilometers) approximately eight and a half minutes after liftoff.
The flying booster on Starlink mission 4-26, known as B1073, will launch on its third trip to space. It debuted in May with a previous launch for the Starlink program, then flew again on June 29 with the commercial broadcast satellite SES 22.
Tuesday’s mission’s first-stage landing will take place moments after the Falcon 9’s second-stage engine shut down to put the Starlink satellites into orbit. The separation of the 52 spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, from the Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for T+plus 15 minutes, 24 seconds.
Retention rods will release from the Starlink payload stack, allowing flat-packed satellites to fly freely from the Falcon 9 upper stage into orbit. The 52 spacecraft will deploy solar arrays and go through automated activation stages, then use krypton-powered ion engines to maneuver into their operational orbit.
Falcon 9’s guidance computer aims to deploy the satellites into an elliptical orbit at an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees from the equator. The satellites will use onboard propulsion 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” at varying inclinations for SpaceX’s global internet network. 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 with a ground terminal provided by SpaceX.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1073.3)
PAYLOAD: 52 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-26)
LAUNCH SITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2022
LAUNCH TIME: 10:14:40 p.m. EDT (02:14:40 a.m. GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 70% chance of acceptable weather conditions; Low risk of high winds; Low risk of adverse conditions for booster recovery
BOOSTER RECOVERY: “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone ship east of Charleston, SC
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast
TARGET ORBIT: 144 by 208 miles (232 by 335 kilometers), 53.2 degree incline
- T+00:00: Takeoff
- T+01:12: Maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:26: First stage main engine shutdown (MECO)
- T+02:30: Floor separation
- T+02:36: Second stage engine ignition
- T+02:41: Fairing jettison
- T+06:45: First stage inlet combustion ignition (three engines)
- T+07:06: First floor inlet burn shutdown
- T+08:19: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
- T+08:43: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 1)
- T+08:44: First stage landing
- T+15:24: Separation of Starlink satellites
- 169th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 177th launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
- 3rd launch of the Falcon 9 booster B1073
- Launch of the 146th Falcon 9 from the Space Coast of Florida
- SpaceX’s 53rd launch from pad 39A
- 147th total launch from pad 39A
- 111th flight of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
- 54th dedicated launch of Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
- Launch of the 35th Falcon 9 in 2022
- SpaceX’s 35th launch in 2022
- 35th orbital launch attempt based at Cape Canaveral in 2022
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