SpaceX is less than five hours away from kicking off a jam-packed year of rocket launches and landings, a Starlink internet satellite launch that will be both SpaceX and the world’s first orbital launch of the new decade.
The company’s second operational Starlink mission – Starlink V1 L2 – is scheduled to launch no earlier than (NET) Monday, January 6th at 9:19 pm EST (02:19 UTC, Jan 7) from Space Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).
The third dedicated launch of Starlink satellites and the second featuring fully finalized ‘v1.0’ spacecraft, Starlink-2 will send another 60 internet satellites to orbit, where they will fire up their own electric thrusters to reach their final orbits. Along with marking the very first launch of the year, SpaceX is also setting up for a few notable rocket recovery milestones.
The Falcon 9 booster, B1049, supporting Monday’s Starlink mission is a seasoned booster with three successful launches and landings already under its belt. It was last flown and landed when it sent the first batch of operational Starlink satellites to orbit in May of 2019. Prior to that, it supported the Telstar-18V satellite launch in September of 2018 as well as the west coast launch of the Iridium-8 satellite in January of 2019.
Once B1049 successfully delivers the next 60 Starlink satellites and returns for a recovery landing aboard the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” approximately 621km downrange from the launch location it will become the second Block 5 Falcon 9 booster to have flown and landed a record 4 times.
The booster, however, is not the only piece of spaceflight hardware that is planned to be recovered. SpaceX has deployed recovery vessels GO Ms. Tree and GO Navigator to the recovery zone some 732km downrange of the launch location off the coast of the Carolina’s to hopefully recover both halves of the protective fairing that encapsulates the Starlink satellites during ascent.
A previous recovery attempt during the most recent Starlink mission in November of 2019 was called off due to rough seas and bad weather at the recovery zone, resulting in minor damage to both Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief.
With a healthy static fire of all nine Merlin-1D engines occurring Saturday, January 4th ahead of launch, the B1049 Falcon 9 is ready to go to work. The 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station expects the weather to provide stellar conditions for Monday’s launch attempt with only a 10% chance of violating weather constraints. Teslarati’s photographer, Richard Angle will be on-site to photograph the expected spectacular night-time launch. SpaceX will begin a livestream of the launch approximately 15 minutes prior at 9:05 p.m. EST.
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