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SpaceX rocket ready for launch with more Starlink satellites – 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 4-14 mission will launch SpaceX’s next batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites. Follow us on Twitter.

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SpaceX is counting down to launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 1:51 pm EDT (1751 GMT) Thursday, carrying another 53 Starlink internet satellites into orbit. The first stage booster, flying for the 12th time, will target a landing on an offshore drone ship.

SpaceX delayed the launch from Thursday’s first opportunity at 11:14 am EDT (1514 GMT) due to high winds at the Florida spaceport.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will blast off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral and head northeast, powered by nine liquid-fueled Merlin 1D main engines.

The Starlink 4-14 mission aims to deliver another batch of spacecraft into orbit for SpaceX’s privately-funded Starlink broadband network. It’s the company’s 42nd mission primarily dedicated to carrying Starlink satellites.

SpaceX’s drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” is in position around 400 miles (650 kilometers) downrange in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly due east of Charleston, South Carolina. The Falcon 9’s first stage booster, tail number B1060, will attempt to land on the vessel floating in the Atlantic. It’s the 12th flight for this booster, which debuted with a launch June 30, 2020, hauling a GPS navigation satellite into space for the US Space Force.

In the official launch weather forecast, meteorologists from the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral predict a 70% chance of favorable conditions for the liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket Thursday. The primary weather concern is ground winds at the Florida spaceport.

Most recently, the booster launched March 3 with a previous batch of Starlink internet satellites.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage engine is expected to shut down nearly nine minutes into the mission, moments after the scheduled landing of the first stage downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.

After coasting across the North Atlantic, over Europe and the Middle East, then across the Indian Ocean, the upper stage is programmed to reignite its engine for a brief one-second firing to maneuver the 53 Starlink satellites into the proper orbit for separation.

The Falcon 9’s guidance computer will aim to release the flat-panel satellites just shy of one hour after launch in an orbit between 189 miles and 197 miles (304 by 318 kilmeters) above Earth, with an inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator.

The Starlink satellites will extend solar arrays and use on-board ion thrusters to reach their operational orbit at an altitude of 335 miles (540 kilometers), where they will enter commercial service for SpaceX.

After Thursday’s mission, SpaceX will have launched 2,388 Starlink satellites to date, including spacecraft that were decommissioned or suffered failures. More than 2,000 of those satellites are in orbit and functioning as of Thursday, according to a list maintained by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist who closely tracks spaceflight activity.

Read our mission preview story for more details.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1060.12)

PAYLOAD: 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-14)

LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: April 21, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 1:51 pm EDT (1751: 00 GMT)

WEATHER FORECAST: 70% chance of acceptable weather; Low risk of unfavorable conditions for booster recovery

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

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast

TARGET ORBIT: 189 miles by 197 miles (304 kilometers by 318 kilometers), 53.2 degrees inclination

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T + 00: 00: Liftoff
  • T + 01: 12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T + 02: 30: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
  • T + 02: 35: Stage separation
  • T + 02: 42: Second stage engine ignition
  • T + 02:51: Fairing jettison
  • T + 06: 12: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
  • T + 06: 32: First stage entry burn cutoff
  • T + 08: 01: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T + 08: 23: First stage landing
  • T + 08: 48: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
  • T + 45: 25: Second stage restart
  • T + 45: 26: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 2)
  • T + 59:49: Starlink satellite separation

MISSION STATS:

  • 149th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 157th launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 12th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1060
  • 130th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 84th Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
  • 139th launch overall from pad 40
  • 92nd flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 42nd dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites
  • 15th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
  • 15th launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 15th orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.

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