SpaceX Falcon 9 sends 15 Starlink satellites to join growing constellation

Falcon 9 second stage view of orbital sunset (Credit SpaceX)

The thick fog didn’t stop the Falcon 9 from launching 15 V2 mini Starlink satellites last night from California.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 9:57 p.m. PT (03:57 UTC) from a very foggy Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. These 15 satellites form the Group 6-20 portion of the Starlink constellation.

After launching to the Southeast and putting on a show for Southern California, the Falcon 9 first and second stages separated, and while the first stage made its way back through the atmosphere, the second stage performed a dog-leg maneuver that brought it over the Baja Peninsula, Mexico and the proper trajectory for a 43-degree orbital inclination.

It seems, for now, that SpaceX is only comfortable with launching 15 V2 mini Starlinks at a time from California, possibly due to extra performance needed, and still maintain the ability to recover the Falcon 9 first stage as we know they can fit at least 22 of the satellites into the fairing as they do for launches from Florida.

The addition of these 15 satellites to the Starlink Constellation brings the total number launched to 4,918. It will take some time for these 15 to get to their operational orbits as they undergo checkouts. One advantage of the low Earth orbit they are inserted into is if any issues are found, SpaceX is able to safely deorbit them and not create space junk.

As for the first stage on this mission, Booster 1075, it performed its 5th mission, 4 of which have been Starlink missions and the other being the Transport and Tracking Layer (Tranche 0, Flight 1). The first stage successfully landed on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ about nine and a half minutes after the lift-off.

The fairings for this mission were both flying for the 6th time and will attempt to be recovered by Go Beyond, SpaceX’s West Coast fairing recovery ship.

This mission marked the 54th mission of the year for SpaceX and is the 215th overall landing of an orbital class rocket between the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy

Up next for SpaceX is yet again another Starlink launch! A Falcon 9 will launch up to 22 V2 mini Starlinks from Florida no earlier than Thursday evening, pending confirmation from SpaceX.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 sends 15 Starlink satellites to join growing constellation
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