Live coverage of the countdown to the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Starlink 4-12 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 53 full-scale Starlink satellites. Follow us Twitter.
SpaceX Voice Mission
53 other SpaceX satellites launched into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket just after midnight Saturday from Cape Canaveral. The Falcon 9’s reusable booster has completed its twelfth successful mission to space, making it the flagship of the fleet in SpaceX’s inventory. Takeoff took place at 12:42 a.m. EDT (0442 GMT).
The booster aircraft that was flying early Saturday, known as B1051, landed aboard the parked SpaceX drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” about 400 miles (640 kilometers) in the Atlantic Ocean, just east of Charleston, South Carolina.
The mission, numbered Starlink 4-12 in SpaceX’s launch schedule, marked the resumption of the Falcon 9 launch toward the northeast from the Florida space coast. Since the beginning of the year, SpaceX launches with Starlink satellites have headed southeast, taking a different path to the same orbit at an inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator.
SpaceX changed its launch direction in the winter months due to better odds of acceptable low weather near the Bahamas than a boosted landing area northeast of Cape Canaveral.
The Starlink 4-12 aims to deliver another batch of spacecraft into orbit for the privately funded Starlink broadband network, the company’s sixth consecutive launch dedicated to raising satellites for the massive Internet constellation.
SpaceX said Friday night it was moving the launch into a standby opportunity due to bad weather over Cape Canaveral, well past the first available launch time of 11:23 p.m. EDT (0323 GMT).
In an official weather launch forecast, meteorologists from the US Space Force’s 45th Meteorological Squadron at Cape Canaveral predict a 70% chance of a Falcon 9 launch Friday night through Saturday.
The booster flying on the Starlink 4-12 mission made its debut in March 2019 with the uncrewed test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which paved the way for SpaceX’s subsequent launch with astronauts. The booster was launched from all three active SpaceX platforms in Florida and California, including a 2019 Crew Dragon test flight, a mission with three Earth-imaging satellites from Canada’s Radarsat, SiriusXM’s SXM 7 broadcast satellite, and eight Starlink flights.
Most recently, the rocket was launched on December 18 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, then landed aboard a SpaceX unmanned ship floating in the Pacific Ocean.
When the current version of the Falcon 9 rocket — known as the Block 5 — was first launched in 2018, SpaceX officials said the booster could fly 10 times before requiring a major overhaul. After watching how ground teams refurbished and repurposed Falcon 9’s boosters — and powered 119 successful Falcon launches — SpaceX is now pushing the limits of the rocket’s life expectancy.
Three Falcon boosters have been flown 11 times bound for the Starlink 4-12 mission.
While the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket returned to Earth to land in the sea east of Carolina, the second stage fired its single engine to reach an initial transfer orbit. Another burn about 45 minutes after liftoff put the Starlink satellites into the appropriate orbit to separate them.
The flat-packed spacecraft sprang up from the upper stage of Falcon 9 about 59 minutes after liftoff.
Starlink satellites will extend solar arrays and use onboard ion thrusters to reach their operational orbit at an altitude of 335 miles (540 kilometers), where they will enter SpaceX commercial service.
SpaceX has now launched 2,335 Starlink satellites so far, including spacecraft that have either been decommissioned or have experienced failures. There are more than 2,000 of these satellites in orbit and operational as of Saturday, according to a list maintained by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist who tracks spaceflight activity closely.
Read Mission Preview Story for more details.
rocket: Falcon 9 (B1051.12)
Payload: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-12)
launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Station, Florida
Lunch date: March 19, 2022
launch time: 12:42:30 AM EST (0042:30 GMT)
weather forecast: 70% chance of acceptable weather; Low risk of conditions unfavorable for enhanced recovery
Recovery from reinforcement: Drone “Just Read Instructions” Drone East of Charleston, South Carolina
AZIMUTH LAUNCH: the Northeast
target orbit: 189 miles by 197 miles (304 kilometers by 318 kilometers), 53.2 degrees miles
- T+00:00: take off
- T+01: 12: maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
- T+02:32: First stage main engine cut-off (MICU)
- T+02:35: Phase separation
- T+02:42: Ignite the engine in the second stage
- T+02:52: Get rid of the calm
- T+06:19: Ignition of burning entering the first stage (three engines)
- T+06:39: First stage entry combustion cut off
- T+08:07: 1st stage combustion ignition (single engine)
- T+08:29: First stage landing
- T+08: 47: Engine cut-off in second stage (SECO 1)
- T+45:29: Second stage restart
- T + 45: 30: Engine cut-off in second stage (SECO 2)
- T + 1: 02: 26: Starlink satellite separation
- The 145th launch of the Falcon 9 since 2010
- The 153rd launch of the Falcon family since 2006
- Twelfth launch of the Falcon 9 Booster B1051
- Falcon 9 #127 launched from Florida’s space coast
- Launch of Falcon 9 #82 from the 40 . platform
- 137th release overall from plate 40
- Flight 88 of the reused Falcon 9 booster
- The launch of the 41st custom Falcon 9 with Starlink satellites
- Falcon 9 11th launch in 2022
- Eleventh launch by SpaceX in 2022
- Twelfth orbital launch from Cape Canaveral in 2022
Send an email to the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: Tweet embed.
“Wannabe music enthusiast. Professional creator. Amateur food fanatic. Freelance pop culture maven.”