Veteran “Vandenberg Falcon”Flies – West Coast Starlink Passes 1,300

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Photo Credit: SpaceX B1071 begins her 14th Mission in the picture-perfect Vandenberg skies. Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX successfully executed its 65th Falcon 9 mission out of Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., and its fifth from the mountain-ringed launch site of 2024 alone, with Friday’s rousing 4:34 p.m. PST rise of a veteran booster from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E. Tonight’s pre-sunset launch with a stack of 22 Starlink internet communications satellites came after two back-to-back days of delay caused by poor weather conditions.

Flying tonight’s mission was the booster tailnumbered B1071, a dedicated “Vandenberg Falcon”It was the 14th launch of this product in exactly two-years. First flight in early February 2022, her opening pair of flights delivered two highly secretive payloads to orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), followed by a pair of multi-customer Transporter missions, Germany’s SARah-1 radar-imaging surveillance satellite, seven Starlink missions—totaling more than 250 flat-packed satellites—NASA’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission (SWOT).It is possible to measure the altitude of surface water with precision down to centimeters.

Note: The fifth flight will be in October 2022Set a record together Dragon Endurance and Crew-5 have been launchedIt takes just seven hours, ten minutes and ten seconds between two Falcon 9 missions. This record has been broken twice since. First, in March 2023More recently The final days of December. B1071 was also responsible for executing SpaceX’s 200th successful landingFirst-stage booster.

B1071 deploys her hypersonic grid-fins to commence descent (left pane) as the Falcon 9’s second stage engine glows red-hot to initiate its six-minute “burn” profile (right pane). Photo Credit: SpaceX

The Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, based on the West Coast, is ready for launch. “Of Course I Still Love You”On the afternoon of the 1st of February, the, set sail from Port of Long Beach, heading for a recovery site some 400 miles (640 km) offshore in Pacific Ocean. As the recently launched Plankton Aerosol Cloud Ocean Ecosystem (PACE), mission from the East Coast Multiple days of weather-induced delaysSo did this flight on the West Coast.

SpaceX is launching its first Vandenberg mission in February quickly, with an initial target of 9:37 pm PST on Tuesday. The Falcon 9 was loaded with densified oxygen and a highly-refined form of rocket grade kerosene, known as “RP-1”Despite an ominous, but accurate weather forecast that predicted only a 30% chance of acceptance at T0, the race got underway quickly and on schedule.

Last week’s launch of the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean, Ecosystem (PACE) mission from the East Coast also succumbed to several days of weather delay, before finally going airborne on 8 February. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Clocks passed “Startup” at T-1 minute, when B1071’s flight computers assumed control, but an automatic halt was called at T-43 seconds and the countdown was held for several minutes before the attempt was scrubbed. “Next opportunity is no earlier than 7 February, pending weather conditions,”The Hawthorne (Calif.)-based organization tweeted on X. It revealed on its site that the next range of T-0 choices began at 5 p.m. Wednesday PST, just as the sun was setting.

Due to the poor weather forecast with only 20 percent favorable conditions and excessive clouds, teams decided to skip Wednesday and Thursday. But Friday proved decidedly charmed, as conditions sprang to 80-percent favorable and propellant loading got underway—for the third time this week—at T-35 minutes, targeting an opening launch attempt at 4:34 p.m. PST.

B1071 descends and lands on the deck of Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. “Of Course I Still Love You”. Photo Credit: SpaceX

B1071, trailing a glowing flaming tongue, took off on her 14th flight in 24 months. That’s an average of one flight per 7.5 weeks. “Over its 14 missions, this booster has delivered over 134 metric tons to space,”SpaceX tweeted “including 279 Starlink satellites that help provide internet connectivity from almost everywhere on Earth.”

After separating from the stack 2.5 minutes into the ascent, B1071 made a smooth landing on the expansive deck at OCISLY. The second stage was ignited for a 6-minute descent. “burn” to deliver the 22 Starlinks—totaling 38,800 pounds (17,600 kilograms)—into low-Earth orbit. Deployment is expected to occur about 62 minutes following liftoff. This brings the total number Starlinks launched by Vandenberg on 35 separate Falcon 9 missions from September 2021 to over 1,300.

According to SpaceX, B1071 is blackened and scorched after 14 launches and high energy re-entries. It has now delivered more than 134 metric tonnes of payload into space. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Starlink is a network that enables high-speed internet access with low latency in 70 sovereign nations, including those in North and South Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Landlocked Eswatini—formerly Swaziland—in southern Africa, together with Honduras and Paraguay joined Starlink in December.

January alone ended with seven Starlink-laden Falcon 9 missions from the East and West Coasts, including the deployment of SpaceX’s first six “Direct-to-Cell”Satellites allow mobile network operators to offer “seamless global access to texting, calling and browsing”If you’re wondering, yes. “on land, lakes or coastal waters”, without changing either hardware or firmware. SpaceX teams sent their first Direct-to-Cell text messages last month. This was just six days after the launch.

A Starlink payload is ready for launch. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Starlink has been downsized “V2 Mini” satellites, First flown in February last yearThree to four times greater “usable”Starlink 2.0 offers more bandwidth than previous Starlink versions. “V2 Minis include key technologies—such as more powerful phased-array antennas and the use of E-Band for backhaul—which will allow Starlink to provide 4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations,”SpaceX explained “Among other enhancements, V2 Minis are equipped with new argon Hall thrusters for on-orbit maneuvering.”

Brightline, a Florida-based intercity rail operator, adopted Starlink in its trains in 2023. It was the first passenger train service in the entire world to do this. Additionally, El Salvador’s Ministry of Education has begun integrating Starlink capability into its schools to help close the digital divide between urban and remote rural communities and 50 Rwandan schools are now connected via Starlink’s high-speed internet service.

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