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SpaceX is gearing up for another Falcon 9 launch attempt tonight – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Starlink 4-34 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 54 Starlink broadband satellites. follow us on Twitter.

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SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 rocket launch is now scheduled for Sunday at 8:18 p.m. EDT (0018 GMT Monday) to launch 54 more Starlink internet satellites into orbit. The mission was delayed five days due to thunderstorms around the launch base.

The 70-meter tall Falcon 9 rocket is set to launch SpaceX’s Starlink 4-34 mission. The weather forecast for Sunday night assumes a 40 percent chance of acceptable starting conditions.

SpaceX’s launch team aborted the Falcon 9 countdown Tuesday night just before it began loading propellant into the Falcon 9 rocket. Lightning lit the sky over Florida’s Space Coast throughout the evening. Similar weather conditions on Wednesday night forced officials to call for another scrub before refueling, and SpaceX halted the countdown at about T-minus 30 seconds Thursday night as weather remained a “no go” for launch.

It was a similar story on Friday night when SpaceX loaded propellant into the Falcon 9 but stopped the countdown just short of T-minus 60 seconds. Teams initially aimed for another launch attempt on Saturday, but SpaceX announced Saturday night that the mission would be postponed to Sunday night.

This flight marks SpaceX’s 42nd Falcon 9 launch so far in 2022. It will be the 40th overall space launch attempt from Florida’s Space Coast this year, including launches from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Astra.

At launch, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will release the satellites over the North Atlantic about 15 minutes after launch. The 54 Starlink satellites will have a total payload mass of approximately 36,800 pounds or 16.7 tons.

The Starlink 4-34 mission will be the third of up to five Falcon 9 missions scheduled for SpaceX this month. Tom Ochinero, SpaceX’s vice president of commercial sales, said Tuesday at the World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris that the company is aiming for more than 60 launches this year, with a goal of 100 rocket missions in 2023 to complete one to continue dramatic increase at SpaceX cadence start.

The higher launch rate was aided by shorter turnarounds between missions on launch pads in Florida and California, and SpaceX’s reuse of Falcon 9 boosters and payload fairings. Launches involving satellites for SpaceX’s own Starlink internet network, like Friday night’s mission, have accounted for about two-thirds of the company’s Falcon 9 flights so far this year.

SpaceX last month began flying 54 Starlink satellites on dedicated Falcon 9 flights, one more spacecraft than the company typically launches on previous missions. SpaceX has been experimenting with different engine throttle settings and other minor changes to improve the Falcon 9’s performance.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands at Pad 40 of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station prior to launch for the Starlink 4-34 mission. Photo credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

SpaceX tested the Falcon 9 booster for the Starlink 4-34 mission on the September launch pad. 11. A Sept. 10 static fire test was aborted when a severe thunderstorm swept over the Cape Canaveral Cosmodrome.

The booster carries the designation B1067 in SpaceX’s inventory of reusable rockets and will make its sixth flight into space on Sunday evening. The booster previously launched two astronaut missions to the International Space Station, as well as two supply flights to the station. It also launched Turkey’s Turksat 5B communications satellite.

With Sunday night’s Starlink 4-34 mission, SpaceX will have launched 3,347 Starlink internet satellites, including prototypes and test units that are no longer in service. Launch Saturday will be the 61st SpaceX mission, primarily dedicated to launching Starlink internet satellites into orbit.

SpaceX’s launch team, based at a launch control center south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, will begin loading super-cooled, dense kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant into the 70-meter-tall Falcon 9 vehicle at T-Minus, taking 35 minutes.

In the last half hour of the countdown, pressurized helium gas will also flow into the rocket. During the final seven minutes before liftoff, the Falcon 9’s main Merlin engines are thermally conditioned for flight through a process known as “chilldown.” The Falcon 9’s guidance and range security system will also be configured for launch.

After launch, the Falcon 9 rocket will channel its 1.7 million pounds of thrust – generated by nine Merlin engines – to head northeast across the Atlantic.

The rocket will exceed the speed of sound in about a minute and shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after launch. The booster stage detaches from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then fires pulses from cold-gas thrusters and deploys titanium grid fins to steer the craft back into the atmosphere.

Two deceleration burns slow the rocket about 400 miles (650 kilometers) down for landing on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship, about eight and a half minutes after launch.

Photo credit: Spaceflight Now

The Falcon 9 reusable payload fairing is jettisoned during the second stage burn. A recovery vessel is also stationed in the Atlantic to recover the two halves of the nose cone after they have been parachuted down.

The mission’s first stage landing on Sunday will come shortly after the Falcon 9 second stage engine was shut down to launch the Starlink satellites into orbit. Separation of the 54 Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Wash., from the Falcon 9 rocket is expected at T+plus 15 minutes, 21 seconds.

Tie rods detach from the Starlink payload stack, allowing the flat-packed satellites to fly in orbit free of the Falcon 9 upper stage. The 54 spacecraft will deploy solar arrays and go through automated activation steps, then use krypton-powered ion thrusters to maneuver into their operational orbit.

The Falcon 9’s guidance computer aimed to place the satellites in an elliptical orbit inclined 53.2 degrees to the equator. The satellites will use onboard propulsion to do the rest of the work to achieve a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.

The Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “envelopes” with different inclinations for SpaceX’s global internet network. Upon reaching operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin broadcasting broadband signals to consumers who can purchase the Starlink service and connect to the network using a SpaceX-provided ground terminal.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1067.6)

PAYLOAD: 54 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-34)

STARTING PLACE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force space station, Florida

PUBLICATION DATE: Sept 18th, 2022

START TIME: 8:18 p.m. EDT (0018 GMT on September 19)

WEATHER FORECAST: 40% chance of acceptable weather; Low risk of upper level winds; Low risk of unfavorable conditions for booster recovery

BOOSTER RECOVERY: Just Read the Instructions drone ship east of Charleston, South Carolina

START AZIMUTH: Northeast

TARGET ORBIT: 144 miles by 208 miles (232 kilometers by 336 kilometers), 53.2 degrees inclination

SCHEDULE FOR INTRODUCTION:

  • T+00:00: Take off
  • T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:27: First Stage Main Engine Shutdown (MECO)
  • T+02:31: Stage separation
  • T+02:36: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:42: Disguise shedding
  • T+06:48: First stage combustion ignition (three engines)
  • T+07:07: First stage combustion shutdown
  • T+08:26: First stage landing burn ignition (single engine)
  • T+08:40: Second stage engine shutdown (SECO 1)
  • T+08:47: First stage landing
  • T+15:21: Separation of Starlink satellites

MISSION STATISTICS:

  • 176th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 184th launch of the Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 6. Falcon 9 booster B1067 launch
  • Launch of the 151st Falcon 9 from the Space Coast in Florida
  • Launch of the 97th Falcon 9 from Pad 40
  • 152. Start overall from Pad 40
  • 118th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 61st dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites
  • 42. Falcon 9 launch in 2022
  • 42nd launch of SpaceX in 2022
  • 40th orbital launch attempt from Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @Stephen Clark1.

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