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SpaceX going for record-tying 31st launch of the year – Spaceflight Now

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 4-22 mission launched SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites. Follow us on Twitter.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is counting down to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 10:20 am EDT (1420 GMT) Sunday with 53 more Starlink internet satellites. The mission will mark SpaceX’s fourth launch in 10 days, and SpaceX’s 31st launch of 2022, tying the record number of Falcon 9 missions in a calendar year.

The Falcon 9 booster will target a landing on SpaceX’s drone ship parked downrange in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral.

The rocket will head northeast from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, aiming to deliver the flat-packed broadband relay stations to an orbit ranging between 144 miles and 210 miles in altitude (232-by-338 kilometers). Deployment of the 53 flat-packed satellites from the Falcon 9’s upper stage will occur about 15 minutes after liftoff.

With Thursday’s mission, designated Starlink 4-22, SpaceX will have launched 2,858 Starlink internet satellites, including prototypes and test units no longer in service. The launch Thursday will mark the 51st SpaceX mission primarily dedicated to hauling Starlink internet satellites into orbit.

Stationed inside a firing room at a launch control center just south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, SpaceX’s launch team will begin loading super-chilled, densified kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants into the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 vehicle at T-minus 35 minutes.

Helium pressurant will also flow into the rocket in the last half-hour of the countdown. In the final seven minutes before liftoff, the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will be thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “chilldown.” The Falcon 9’s guidance and range safety systems will also be configured for launch.

After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will vector its 1.7 million pounds of thrust — produced by nine Merlin engines — to steer northeast over the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket will exceed the speed of sound in about one minute, then shut down its nine main engines two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. The booster stage will release from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then fire pulses from cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help steer the vehicle back into the atmosphere.

Two braking burns will slow the rocket for landing on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” around 400 miles (650 kilometers) downrange approximately eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.

Credit: Spaceflight Now

The booster — tail number B1051 — flying Sunday is one of the oldest in SpaceX’s fleet of reusable rockets. It debuted in March 2019 with the first unpiloted test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Since then, the booster has launched Canada’s Radarsat Constellation Mission, SiriusXM’s SXM 7 radio broadcasting satellite, and nine Starlink missions.

B1051 will become the third booster in SpaceX’s inventory to reach the 13-flight milestone. SpaceX has certified Falcon 9 boosters for at least 15 missions, an extension from the original certification of 10 flights.

Landing of the first stage on Friday’s mission will occur moments after the Falcon 9’s second stage engine cuts off to deliver the Starlink satellites into orbit. Separation of the 53 spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, was confirmed at T+plus 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

Retention rods will release from the Starlink payload stack, allowing the flat-packed satellites to fly free from the Falcon 9’s upper stage in orbit. The 53 spacecraft will unfurl solar arrays and run through automated activation steps, then use krypton-fueled ion engines to maneuver into their operational orbit.

The Falcon 9’s guidance computer aims to deploy the satellites into an elliptical orbit at an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator. The satellites will use on-board propulsion to do the rest of the work to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.

The Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “shells” at different inclinations for SpaceX’s global internet network. After reaching their operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin beaming broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase Starlink service and connect to the network with a SpaceX-supplied ground terminal.

ROCKETS: Falcon 9 (B1051.13)

PAYLOAD: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-22)

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

LAUNCH DATE: July 17, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 10:20:00 a.m. EDT (1420:00 GMT)

WEATHER FORECAST: 50% chance of acceptable weather; Low risk of upper level winds; Low risk of unfavorable conditions for booster recovery

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

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Nord Est

TARGET ORBIT: 144 miles by 210 miles (232 kilometers by 338 kilometers), 53.2 degrees inclination

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T+00:00: Lift off
  • T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:28: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
  • T+02:32: Stage separation
  • T+02:39: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:43: Fairing jettison
  • T+06:50: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
  • T+07:09: First stage entry burn cutoff
  • T+08:26: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T+08:47: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
  • T+08:48: First stage landing
  • T+15:28: Starlink satellite separation

MISSION STATS:

  • 165th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 173rd launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 13th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1051
  • 143rd Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 92nd Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
  • 147th launch overall from pad 40
  • 107th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 51st dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites
  • 31st Falcon 9 launch of 2022
  • 31st launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 31st orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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