SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted its heaviest payload ever into low Earth orbit Thursday morning (January 26), launching 56 new Starlink webcast satellites.
the Falcon 9 The first-stage booster that propelled the mission as it climbed through Earth’s atmosphere has been used eight times previously, including on two crewed missions to the International Space Station (Crew 3 And Crew 4which launched in November 2021 and April 2022, respectively).
56 Starlink satellitesAt a combined weight of 17.4 metric tons (19.4 tons), according to a SpaceX commentator, it was protected by five reuse fairings during ascent.
Related: 10 strange things about SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites
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The rocket lifted off smoothly from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral in Florida after a 10-minute delay at 4:32 a.m. EDT (0922 GMT).
The first stage separated about 2 minutes and 30 seconds after takeoff and began a controlled descent to Earth. The veteran first stage stopped landing flawlessly about eight minutes and 40 seconds after liftoff when it touched down on SpaceX’s “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship off the coast of Florida.
The two fairing halves, one on the fifth and the other on the sixth, descended from the upper stage nose cone shortly after the first stage separated and fell into the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX said in a web stream that it intends to restore the exterior for further reuse.
About 55 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX Confirmed on Twitter (Opens in a new tab) The satellites were successfully launched into orbit.
The launch will add more satellites to SpaceX’s giant Starlink constellation, which provides internet service to customers around the world.
Starlink is actually made up of More than 3,400 global satellites (Opens in a new tab)and this remarkable number will continue to grow far into the future. Elon MuskStarlink already has permission to the upper deck for 12,000 Starlink spacecraft, and has applied for approval to deploy nearly 30,000 satellites on top of that.
Thursday’s launch will actually be the sixth of 2023 for SpaceX and the company’s 205th overall. If the company maintains that cadence — which is a big deal, considering it’s still only January — it will break its 61-year launch record, which is It is set in 2022.
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