SpaceX sent a space tug into the air Sunday evening (September 4) along with another large batch of its Starlink internet satellites – and also landed a rocket on a ship at sea.
Also aboard the Starlink Group 4-20 was Sherpa-LTC2, a space tug manufactured by Seattle-based Spaceflight. The tug is carrying a payload for Boeing’s Varuna Technology Demonstration Mission (Varuna-TDM), which “aims to test V-band communications for a proposed constellation of 147 broadband non-geostationary satellites.” according to SpaceNews (opens in new tab).
The first Sherpa-LTC orbital transfer vehicle was removed from a SpaceX launch opportunity in January 2022 due to a propellant leak, SpaceNews added.
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Sunday’s flight schedule called for SpaceX to bring the first stage of it falcon 9 Rocket back to Earth for a soft landing on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship based in the Atlantic. Landing – the seventh for this particular booster – occurred as planned, approximately 8.5 minutes after liftoff.
Sherpa-LTC2 deployed about 49 minutes after launch from the Falcon 9 upper stage, and Starlinks followed 23 minutes after, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter (opens in new tab).
SpaceX has already launched more than 3,000 Starlink satellites into orbit to create a massive constellation of broadband services for remote areas. SpaceX has already launched more than 25 Starlink-centric missions in 2022.
Sunday’s launch marked SpaceX’s 40th this year, further expanding the Starlink mega-constellation. SpaceX has approved the launch of 12,000 Starlink satellites and asked an international regulator to give the thumbs up for another 30,000.
Founder and CEO of SpaceX in late August Elon Musk announced plans to bring connectivity directly to smartphones via Starlink in partnership with T-Mobile. Another deal announced on Tuesday (Aug. 30) will beam the Starlink service Royal Caribbean cruise ships.