Tuesday, May 21

SpaceX reaches nearly 6,000 Starlink satellites on orbit following Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral – Spaceflight Now

A Falcon 9 rocket streaks across the night sky over Florida as it lifts off on the Starlink 6-58 mission on May 12, 2024. Image: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX launched a batch of 23 Starlink satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The mission brings the total number of Starlink satellite to 5,999 satellites in orbit, according to numbers published Sunday by expert orbital tracker and astronomer Jonathan McDowell. He noted that one of the satellites, cataloged as S-2601 reentered the atmosphere earlier in the day.

Liftoff of the Starlink 6-58 mission from Space Launch Complex 40 happened at 8:53 p.m. EDT (0053 UTC). This was SpaceX’s 34th dedicated Starlink launch of 2024.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, B1073 in the SpaceX fleet, made its 15th flight. Among its previous missions, B1073 launched ispace’s HAKUTO-R lunar lander, SpaceX’s 27th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-27) mission and the Bandwagon-1 rideshare flight.

A little more than eight minutes after liftoff, B1073 landed on the SpaceX droneship, ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas.’ This was the 69 booster landing for ASOG and the 307th booster landing for SpaceX to date.

SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rocket on the Starlink 6-58 mission on May 12, 2024. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

The mission came amid a weekend of historic solar activity that brought auroras as far south as Florida. On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noted that at least five coronal mass ejections were observed by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center to that point.

As of Sunday morning, the SWPC said that a “G4 or Greater Watch” remained in effect for May 12, noting the possibilities of “severe to extreme geomagnetic storming is possible again later today.”

In a post on his social media site, X (formerly known as Twitter), Elon Musk said that SpaceX was closely monitoring the impact of the solar storms on the Starlink constellation.

Starship flight four

The launch activity in Florida also comes as SpaceX is nearing the fourth integrated flight test of its Starship rocket in southern Texas. The Super Heavy Booster (Booster 11) is currently on the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) and Ship 29 upper stage was staged for stacking on Sunday afternoon.

Musk said in a separate post that he anticipates IFT-4 is “probably three to five weeks” away, which would put the mission sometime in the first half of June.

While the company awaits approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the next Starship launch, the FAA also released information noting that it will conduct an environmental review regarding Starship launches at Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

A pair of in-person scoping meetings are set for June 12 and 13 in Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island respectively to allow the public to weigh in on the proposal. A virtual meeting is set for June 17.

While a Final Environmental Assessment for Starship was completed in September 2019, the FAA stated that “SpaceX did not submit a vehicle operator license application for the Starship-Super Heavy launch operations at LC-39A subsequent to the completion of the 2019 EA; therefore, the FAA did not have a federal action to adopt NASA’s EA/FONSI (finding of no significant impact).”

The agency said that SpaceX now proposes new launch infrastructure that was not part of the 2019 EA and aims to launch up to 44 launches per year. SpaceX would also conduct Super Heavy booster and Starship landings at either LC-39A or on a droneship for reusable missions or dispose of them in the ocean for expendable missions.

source: spaceflightnow.com