SpaceX to set new booster reuse record on Starlink mission

SpaceX is ready for the launch of the Starlink Group 4-12 mission, with a Falcon 9 rocket due to loft another 53 satellites into Low Earth Orbit

Date and Time

Liftoff is currently targeted for 12:42 AM EDT (04:42 UTC) on Saturday, March 19 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Saturday’s mission will mark the first time a Falcon 9 booster has flown for the 12th time and will bring the total number of Starlink satellites launched to over 2,300.

The launch marks a return to the northeasterly trajectory that SpaceX used for the initial Starlink Shell 4 launches. Since Starlink Group 4-5 in January, SpaceX had instead been using a southeasterly trajectory with a dogleg around the Bahamas.

This was implemented to avoid unfavorable recovery weather in the North Atlantic Ocean during the winter months. With spring coming, SpaceX is now returning to launching Starlink missions to the northeast.

Falcon 9’s payload fairing is reusable, and after separating the two fairing halves from Saturday’s mission will re-enter and parachute down to the Atlantic Ocean. They will be recovered by SpaceX multi-purpose recovery vessel Doug for reuse on a later mission.

B1051 reaches twelfth flight milestone

Saturday’s mission will mark the first time SpaceX uses the same Falcon 9 booster for a twelfth flight. Booster B1051 first flew on the Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission in March 2019

and since then it has performed another 10 missions including the Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM), SXM-7, and eight Starlink missions.

The current fleet of operational Falcon 9 boosters has twelve active boosters, although B1049, B1053, B1069, and B1071 are being reserved for future flights and aren’t currently in the regular rotation of flights.

Starlink constellation  passing 2,300 launched into orbit

The Starlink Group 4-12 launch will put 53 more Starlink satellites into orbit, bringing the total launched by SpaceX up to 2,335. Of these, 223 are no longer in service, having either failed after deployment and other reasons.

Of the 2,112 satellites remaining in orbit, only 1,579 Starlink spacecraft are currently in their operational orbits, most of them being in shell number 1 while the satellites being launched on Saturday’s mission are part of shell number 4.

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