Florida’s Newest Polar Express (To Orbit) is Officially Open

January 24th 10:00 AM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at Canaveral Space Force Station

Lift off at 10AM Est of Transporter 1. Photo by: Kyle Montgomery – NHS

Just Four days after their last launch SpaceX lifts off the next payload delivery to orbit. A polar orbit at that. This means instead of the traditional more Easterly flight trajectory, we saw this Falcon 9 rocket fly almost directly South. After launching, the rocket does a dog leg maneuver to bring itself more over the Atlantic Ocean then heads directly South skirting along the Florida coast. We last saw this launch trajectory in August of 2020 during the SOACOM-1B launch, but before that the last polar trajectory from Cape Canaveral had been in the 1960’s. We previously saw all polar orbits being reached from launching in California. The launch, originally scheduled yesterday was scrubbed just moments before liftoff due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Photo by: Matt Cutshall – NHS

Flying this mission is booster 1058, the booster which returned crewed space flight to American soil back in May of 2020 when astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley lifted of in the recently NASA certified Crew Dragon capsule. It’s most notable due to the large NASA “worm” logo still emblazoned on it’s first stage, the only Falcon 9 to have anything other than SpaceX written on one side. After DM-2 we saw it launch the ANASIS-II mission, the twelfth batch of Starlink satellites and lastly the upgraded Cargo Dragon capsule on the CRS-21 mission.

Marking the seventy-third successful landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage this is now booster 1058’s fifth Successful launch and landing. Since the drone ship JRTI (Just Read The Instructions) is still sailing back to Port Canaveral with booster 1051 aboard we say OCISLY (Of Course I Still Love You) make it’s first debut of the year. It has been recently stuck in port as refurbishments were being made. The mission itself, Transporter 1 is a dedicated rideshare mission. SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program provides small satellite operators with the opportunity to reach orbit for just one million dollars per mission, which includes up to two-hundred kilograms of payload. Due to SpaceX cutting costs on launches by their supreme ability to reuse hardware they have been able to make this program a reality and provide rides to smaller companies trying to gain access to Sun-Synchronous Orbit.

Photo by: Derek Wise – NHS

On top of booster 1058 inside the payload fairings there is reported to be between eighty-five and one hundred satellites. A new record from any launch provider in number of payloads carried. There were ten Starlink satellites on board as well. SpaceX’s company to bring high speed internet across the globe already has over one thousand satellites deployed. They started lobbying the FCC weeks ago for the permission to get into a polar orbital plane as the FCC considered a modification to the lower orbit of the company’s license. On January 8th of this year the FCC did exactly that and gave the company the permission they wanted to launch these ten satellites into a 560-kilometer orbit at an inclination 97.6 degrees. There are many other exciting payloads being deployed today as well. Including the first time a Falcon 9 has flown with a third stage. The SHERPA-FX is a satellite dispenser carrying eighteen payloads and was designed by Spaceflight to deploy secondary payloads without having other payloads interfere with communications. Although this SHERPA does not have any on board propulsion, it is only one of several models being designed where many will have a monopropellent to boost payloads into different orbits. We also have forty-eight SuperDove sats along for the ride. These being part of Planets SkySat constellation. The upgraded Dove offers higher resolution and cameras to provide more accurate surface reflection values for the company while they continue to better monitor agriculture in hopes of leading to new machine learning applications. Other satellites on Transporter-1 include UVSQ-SAT, Hugo, ADELIS-SAMSON, PULSE, Landmapper, Kepler GEN1, GNOMES-2, Capella Whitney, InOrbit Now, LINCS, and XR-1.

Photo by: Zac Shaul – NHS