Tuesday, May 21

SpaceX to launch next 6 Direct to Cell capable Starlinks on Falcon 9 flight from Vandenberg Space Force Base – Spaceflight Now

A stack of SpaceX Starlink satellites, which included the first six featuring Direct to Cell capabilities. The batch launched on the Starlink 7-9 mission, which lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Jan. 2, 2024. Image: SpaceX

For a second time this year, SpaceX is preparing to launch another batch of Starlink satellites that support its Direct to Cell capability. The six spacecraft are among the 21 total satellites set to launch on Saturday, April 6, from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) is set for 7:25 p.m. PDT (10:25 EDT, 0225 UTC). If needed, SpaceX has backup opportunities during the launch window that runs until 11:17 p.m. PDT (2:17 a.m. EDT, 0617 UTC).

Spaceflight Now will have live coverage beginning about 30 minutes prior to liftoff.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1081 in the SpaceX fleet, will be launching for a sixth time. It previously supported the launches of NASA’s PACE spacecraft, the Crew-7 astronauts, CRS-29, Transporter-10 and Starlink Group 6-34.

A little more than eight minutes after liftoff, B1081 will land on the SpaceX droneship, ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’ This will mark the 88th landing on OCISLY and the 293rd booster landing to date.

The mission will also mark a record turnaround time for the launchpad at SLC-4E. After normally taking at least five days and several hours to ready the pad for a new launch, this mission could come as soon as just about four days after the previous mission: Starlink 7-18.

A diagram of the Starlink direct-to-cell service. Graphic: SpaceX

Following January’s launch of the first DTC Starlink satellites in January, SpaceX conducted a number of tests using the budding service. Those included sending text messages, making phone calls and posting to social media.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, SpaceX Vice President of Falcon Launch Vehicles, Jon Edwards, said that many more DTC satellites are coming in the first half of the year.

“The Falcon and Starlink teams are working hard to get the first direct-to-cell constellation up by the end of August,” Edwards wrote.

In an email to the Federal Communications Commissions’ (FCC) Satellite Licensing Division, SpaceX director of satellite policy wrote that they are aiming to launch 7,500 DTC Starlinks.

Multiple SpaceX officials have stated that they are working to send 28 Starlinks to low Earth orbit in a single launch by the end of the year. So far, they have launched a batch of 24 satellites once back in February.

source: spaceflightnow.com