SpaceX successfully sends its 9th batch of Starlink satellites to space
On June 13 at 5:21 a.m. EST, SpaceX’s ninth set of Starlink satellites lifted off Launch Complex 40 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
This mission marked the fastest turnaround for Launch Complex 40, as Starlink 7 lifted off just over nine days before this flight. The nine Merlin engines roared to life, creating an early sunrise for the Space Coast, and burned for roughly two and a half minutes before shutting off and giving way to the second stage. The first stage then initiated its flip maneuver to position itself on the proper alignment to begin a reentry burn toward its timed target of the “Of Course I Still Love You” autonomous drone ship. The first stage successfully touched down on the ship’s deck roughly nine minutes after it first left earth.
After coasting for nearly fifteen minutes after liftoff, the second stage of Falcon 9 deployed 58 Starlink satellites as well as three SkySat Earth-imaging satellites in conjunction with a ride share program for a company called Planet SkySats.
While the Falcon 9 launch cadence is no stranger to the ferrying of Starlink satellites to orbit, this launch marked several “firsts” for the company. This particular Starlink launch marks the first time that a Falcon 9 booster has flown without having been given a static fire test in the days leading up to flight. While SpaceX did not give an official reason as to why this is the case, it is reasonable to assume that this is due in part to the reliability of the Falcon 9 rocket. Having completed 85 successful launches, the company has been striving to bring Falcon 9 to the reliability level of launching without a static fire test. Given the internal nature of the Starlink payload, the company likely found it fitting to test this theory with this flight, and could possibly make this a regularity in Falcon 9 flights going forward. This launch was also the first time Starlink has shared a fairing with a small sat taking advantage of SpaceX’s fairly recent Rideshare Program.
On Friday, SpaceX released an official update to its Starlink page on the company website. Interested users are now able to sign up for updates for the latest information on how they can take advantage of beta testing for Starlink, as well as when it might become available.