WASHINGTON — SpaceX set records for the reuse of the Falcon 9 booster and mass that the rocket put into orbit on March 19 with the recent launch of its Starlink satellites.
Falcon 9 took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 12:42 a.m. ET. The launch took place on the second of two occasions that night after storms in the area ruled out the launch at 11:24 p.m. ET March 18.
Falcon 9 put 53 Starlink satellites into orbit at an altitude of about 320 km. SpaceX has resumed launches on a northeastern trajectory on this mission after flying several previous Starlink launches on a southeastern trajectory where sea conditions for the booster recovery were more favorable during the winter.
at Tweet after launchSpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the launch was the heaviest Falcon 9 payload ever, at 16.25 metric tons. This means that individual Starlink satellites weigh up to 306 kilograms each, depending on whether that includes the tension rods used to deploy the satellites and, if so, the mass of those rods. By comparison, the previous generation of Starlink satellites weighed about 260 kilograms each.
With this mission, SpaceX launched 2,335 Starlink satellites, According to stats maintained by Jonathan McDowell. Of these, 2,112 satellites are in orbit, of which 1,575 are in operational orbits and nearly 450 others are in operational orbits.
SpaceX also set a new milestone in booster reuse with the twelfth launch of that booster, designated B1051, which landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster first launched an Experimental Crew 1 test flight three years ago, and also launched the Radarsat Constellation Mission, the SXM-7 radio satellite and nine Starlink missions, according to that flight. Two other reinforcements flew 11 flights.
Two missions of Crew Dragon sliding
Hours before the launch of Starlink, Falcon 9’s 11th mission for 2022 and NASA and Axiom Space announced that the upcoming Crew Dragon missions have been back for a few days.
Axiom Space said on March 18 that its X-1 mission to the International Space Station, carrying four commercial astronauts, had been delayed from March 30 to April 3. The company said the four-day delay “will allow teams to complete the final processing of the future spacecraft. mission.”
The company added the April 3 date is “pending domain availability”. NASA announced at a briefing on March 14 that the Space Launch System rehearsal, which was launched to Launch Complex 39B on March 17, was scheduled to take place on April 3. NASA officials said earlier this year that the LC-39A, which is hosting the Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch, should be cleared during SLS launches at the LC-39B, but this restriction wouldn’t necessarily apply to wet dress rehearsal.
NASA also announced on March 18 that the Crew-4 commercial crew mission, which will send four NASA and ESA astronauts to the International Space Station, has been relegated from April 15 to April 19. Reviews data between human spaceflight missions” and also allows for multiple-day launch attempts based on orbit mechanics. The post-review launch date will be finalized early next week.