SpaceX teams launch Falcon 9 rocket on Starlink mission from Cape Canaveral – Spaceflight Now

File: The Falcon 9 rocket is ready to launch the Starlink mission. Image: SpaceX

Update at 7:52 PM EST: SpaceX has canceled Saturday's launch attempt.

SpaceX stopped attempting to launch Starlink on Saturday night. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 Starlink satellites is now targeting liftoff at 7:27 PM EDT (0027 UTC) on Sunday, January 14, from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. .

The company was launching about every four days or so from the Cape toward the end of 2023. However, the pace of launches on the East Coast slowed somewhat with one of the two Florida-based drones, “just read the instructions.” “,” remains on the sidelines after being damaged during the enhanced recovery process in late December.

Spaceflight Now will have live launch coverage starting an hour before liftoff.

The first stage booster supporting Saturday evening's launch, tail number B1073, will make its 12th flight on the Starlink 6-37 mission. Its lineage includes the launch of ispace's HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander, SpaceX's 27th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-27) mission and seven Starlink missions.

About 8.5 minutes after takeoff, B1073 will land the drone, “A Shortfall of Gravitas.” This will be the 57th landing on ASOG and the 263rd landing for a SpaceX vehicle to date. SpaceX will also seek to restore payload aerodynamics.

Starlink drives the business

Starlink missions have been and continue to be a cornerstone of SpaceX's business model. During a company talk posted on social media, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that of the 96 Falcon flights in 2023, two-thirds of them will be for Starlink missions.

Musk noted that the Russian Soyuz family launched 63 rockets in one year, a previous record. Using just a Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has launched 63 Starlink missions through 2023. He mocked the rapidly increasing pace of launches, driven by broadband Internet satellites.

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“For a while, I was posting something, like, ‘Is this the launch that just happened or the one that's happening now?'” “There were three launches in the space of a few days,” Musk said. “Everyone [96] I made it forgotten, it all went down. So, just a big hand for the Falcon team.

Musk noted that they will continue flying Starlink V2 Minis until the Starship rocket can begin launching full-sized Starlink V2 satellites, which Musk said may eventually be called Starlink V3.

“Technically the biggest and single most important goal for Starlink is to get the average latency to less than 20 milliseconds,” Musk said, adding that he ultimately wants the network to be faster than a terrestrial system. Minutes later, he pointed out that Starlink was not intended to replace terrestrial Internet.

“It works really well for sparsely populated areas, but it won't be able to compete in densely populated cities,” Musk said. “It's really low-density situations, and that's where the need is really.”

He also said that they are working to activate Starlink service in more than half of the world's population by the end of 2024. Musk added that they are also offering what he called a Starlink Mini user terminal “that can fit in a backpack.” “

During a company-wide talk posted on social media, SpaceX founder Elon Musk mentioned that the Starlink miniature user terminal will be rolled out to customers sometime in 2024. Image: SpaceX

Big ambitions

SpaceX expects to far exceed its record launch year in 2023. Musk said his goal is to reach approximately 150 launches, not including Starship launches. To achieve this, SpaceX needs to increase the turnaround rate of its three launch pads.

Musk said they hope to reduce this rate to less than 24 hours by the end of the year. However, he did not go into detail about the steps SpaceX will take to achieve this goal at the platform infrastructure level.

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However, it has been reported that they are working to double the launch qualifications of the first phase Falcon booster fleet.

“We've restored the 19th flight. We're now qualifying Falcon 9 to be able to do 40 flights,” Musk said. “And then, let's not forget about fair recovery because actually, a lot of people don't realize that we're restoring interfaces as well.”

Musk said they restored the payload's aerodynamics 300 times. They hope to add two more to the number after Saturday night's stint.

A graphic of SpaceX's Falcon 9 payload shared during a company-wide conversation hosted by founder Elon Musk in early January 2024. Image: SpaceX

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