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Bad weather curbs Falcon 9 launch for fourth consecutive night – 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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Bad weather again kept SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket grounded Friday night at Cape Canaveral, the fourth night in a row weather conditions prevented liftoff. SpaceX will attempt again at 8:43 p.m. EDT (0043 GMT Sunday) to launch the next 54 Starlink internet satellites, but there is only a 30% chance of favorable weather conditions at that time.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket awaits liftoff along with 54 other Starlink internet satellites.

SpaceX’s launch team canceled Tuesday night’s Falcon 9 countdown just before it began loading boosters into the Falcon 9 rocket. Lightning flashes lit up the skies over Florida’s Space Coast throughout throughout the evening. Similar weather Wednesday night forced officials to call another scrub before tanking, and SpaceX stopped the countdown at around T-minus 30 seconds Thursday night as the weather remained “impossible” for launch.

It was a similar story Friday night as SpaceX loaded thrusters into the Falcon 9, but stopped the countdown just inside T-minus 60 seconds.

This flight, designated Starlink 4-34, will mark SpaceX’s 42nd Falcon 9 launch so far in 2022. It will be the 40th space launch attempt from Florida’s Space Coast this year, including launches from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Astra.

Upon liftoff, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will drop the satellites over the North Atlantic Ocean approximately 15 minutes after liftoff. The 54 Starlink satellites will total approximately 36,800 pounds, or 16.7 metric tons, in payload mass.

The Starlink 4-34 mission will be the third of six Falcon 9 missions scheduled for SpaceX’s schedule this month. Tom Ochinero, SpaceX’s vice president of commercial sales, told World Satellite Business Week in Paris on Tuesday that the company aims to perform more than 60 launches this year, with a target of 100 rocket missions. in 2023, continuing a dramatic rise in SpaceX. launch rate.

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

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

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands on pad 40 of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station before liftoff for Starlink mission 4-34. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX tested the Falcon 9 booster for Starlink mission 4-34 on the launch pad on September 11. A static firing attempt on September 10 was aborted as a strong thunderstorm swept through Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The booster is designated B1067 in SpaceX’s reusable rocket inventory and will make its sixth flight into space on Saturday evening. The booster previously launched two astronaut missions to the International Space Station, as well as two resupply flights to the station. It also launched the Turkish communication satellite Turksat 5B.

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

Stationed inside a launch control center just south of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, the SpaceX launch team will begin loading super-chilled and densified kerosene and liquid oxygen boosters in the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 vehicle at T-minus 35 minutes.

The pressurizing helium will also flow into the rocket in the last half hour of the countdown. During the last seven minutes before liftoff, Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will be thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “cooling down”. Falcon 9’s range guidance and safety system will also be configured for launch.

After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will direct its 1.7 million pounds of thrust – produced by nine Merlin engines – to head northeast over the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket will exceed the speed of sound in about a minute, then shut down its nine main engines two and a half minutes after liftoff. The booster stage will exit from the Falcon 9 upper stage, then fire pulses from cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help bring the vehicle back into the atmosphere.

Two brake burns will slow the rocket to land on the “Just read the instructions” drone ship approximately 400 miles (650 kilometers) approximately eight and a half minutes after liftoff.

Credit: Spaceflight Now

The Falcon 9 reusable payload fairing will jettison 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 splash down under the parachutes.

Saturday’s mission first-stage landing will take place moments after the Falcon 9’s second-stage engine shuts down to put the Starlink satellites into orbit. The separation of the 54 Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, from the Falcon 9 rocket is expected at T+plus 15 minutes, 21 seconds.

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

The Falcon 9 guidance computer aimed to deploy the satellites into an elliptical orbit at an inclination of 53.2 degrees from the equator. The satellites will use onboard propulsion to do the rest of the work to reach a circular orbit 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth.

Starlink satellites will fly in one of five orbital “shells” at varying inclinations for SpaceX’s global internet network. After reaching their operational orbit, the satellites will enter commercial service and begin transmitting broadband signals to consumers, who can purchase Starlink service and connect to the network with a ground terminal provided by SpaceX.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1067.6)

PAYLOAD: 54 Starlink satellites (Starlink 4-34)

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

RELEASE DATE: September 17, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 8:43 p.m. EDT (0043 GMT September 18)

WEATHER FORECAST: 40% chance of acceptable weather conditions; Low risk of high winds; Low risk of adverse conditions for booster recovery

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

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast

TARGET ORBIT: 144 by 208 miles (232 by 336 kilometers), 53.2 degree incline

LAUNCH TIMETABLE:

  • T+00:00: Takeoff
  • T+01:12: Maximum air pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:27: First stage main engine shutdown (MECO)
  • T+02:31: Floor separation
  • T+02:36: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+02:42: Fairing jettison
  • T+06:48: First stage inlet combustion ignition (three engines)
  • T+07:07: First floor inlet burn shutdown
  • T+08:26: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T+08:40: Second stage motor shutdown (SECO 1)
  • T+08:47: First stage landing
  • T+15:21: Separation of Starlink satellites

MISSION STATS:

  • 176th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 184th launch of the Falcon family of rockets since 2006
  • 6th launch of the Falcon 9 booster B1067
  • Launch of the 151st Falcon 9 from the Space Coast of Florida
  • Launch of the 97th Falcon 9 from pad 40
  • 152nd total launch from pad 40
  • 118th flight of a repurposed Falcon 9 booster
  • 61st dedicated Falcon 9 launch with Starlink satellites
  • Launch of the 42nd Falcon 9 in 2022
  • 42nd launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 40th orbital launch attempt based at Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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