June 20, 2024

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SpaceX to launch Falcon 9 rocket on record-breaking 21st flight – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX to launch Falcon 9 rocket on record-breaking 21st flight – Spaceflight Now
The SpaceX Falcon 9’s second stage creates what’s called a “jellyfish” effect as it moves across the sky over the Atlantic Ocean with a cruise ship on the horizon. The Starlink 6-59 mission was launched on May 17, 2024. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX has reached a new stage of reusability with its Falcon 9 rocket with the Starlink launch from Florida on Friday evening. The first stage booster, tail number B1062, was launched for a record 21st time, the first in SpaceX’s rocket fleet to do so.

The launch of the Starlink 6-59 mission added an additional 23 satellites to the growing low-Earth orbit internet constellation and was the company’s 36th dedicated Starlink launch of the year.

Since its debut in November 2020, B1062 has launched two GPS satellites, eight astronauts on two missions (Inspiration4 and Ax-1) along with 13 Starlink flights. So far, it has sent 553 payloads into orbit, including the two Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Before its flight on May 17, it was most recently launched about a month ago on the Starlink 6-49 mission. Like last time, about 8.5 minutes after takeoff, B1062 touched down on the SpaceX drone, named “A Shortfall of Gravitas.” This was the 70th booster landing using ASOG and the 309th booster landing for the Falcon 9 to date.

According to the latest statistics published by orbital tracking expert and astronomer Jonathan McDowell, as of the morning of May 17, there were a total of 6,017 Starlink satellites in orbit and 5,941 in operation.

Prior to the launch of the Starlink 6-59 mission, a total of 6,436 satellites have been launched into low Earth orbit, of which 788 satellites will be launched in 2024.

The SpaceX Falcon 9’s second stage creates what’s called a “jellyfish” effect as it moves across the sky over the Atlantic Ocean with a cruise ship on the horizon. The Starlink 6-59 mission was launched on May 17, 2024. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

Development of Starship Flight 4

While SpaceX was preparing to launch the Falcon 9 on Friday night, it was also busy in South Texas working on the fourth integrated flight test of the Starship rocket.

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The nearly 400-foot-tall rocket was stacked at the launch pad at SpaceX’s Starbase facility on Wednesday, May 15. The next day, the rocket conducted a partial rehearsal as it practiced loading liquid methane and liquid oxygen aboard the vehicle.

The FAA’s launch authorization allowing the vehicle’s next flight test is still pending, but on May 11 Reply to X (Previously Twitter), SpaceX founder Elon Musk suggested that the launch “may be three to five weeks away.”

in It happened Hosted by the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation on May 14, SpaceX’s Starbase general manager Kathy Lueders said they are working toward obtaining a license by the end of May or beginning of June.

“We’ll be ready as always. We’ll get the car ready, and the first day we get this license, we’ll be flying,” Lueders said.

She also noted in her speech that testing of Starship missiles had also begun after the fourth flight. In response to a question from the audience, I addressed an issue regarding Ship 31 that had been captured by LabPadre cameraswhich shows a pulsating flash coming from the missile.

“We were testing our next round of vehicles, the next round of Starships, and we had an anomalous test that we are now evaluating and understanding what that means,” Leders said. “We’re always working on vehicles, but when there’s a problem with a vehicle in flow, you want to make sure you can separate the cause of that problem from your flying vehicle. So what the teams are doing now is asking is it exactly the same design? Is there a cause? Another has us split up to make sure we don’t get into a flight test because there’s a problem.”

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Although SpaceX has not commented further on this anomaly, by going ahead with a wetsuit rehearsal on May 16, it is likely that they have either fixed the issue or are comfortable that it will not affect Ship 29, which is being used for IFT-4. .

Ship 29 is stacked on top of Booster 11 before a fuel tank test of the fully integrated Starship rocket on May 16, 2024. Image: SpaceX