November 12th at 7:40 AM Est from SLC-40 at Canaveral Space Force Station
After many long months without site of a Starlink launch we were teased early last month with a promise of a Starlink mission from Vandenburg Space Force base in California. That was quickly taken away while initial reports where that something was malfunctioning with several of the satellites. We really don’t know what the issue is on the West coast, but we know that both Falcon 9 booster 1051, and 1048, the most flown boosters for SpaceX (tied at ten flights) are there waiting to make that eleventh launch and landing.
Starlink 4-1 was originally scheduled for November 12th, at 7:41 AM Est, but due to unfavorable weather conditions, read, rain storm, the launch was scrubbed for the day and put on a twenty-four hour recycle with the launch time moving up to 7:19 AM Est on November 13th. Today though the Weather forecast gave 90% conditions for launch time. With light clouds scattered across the Cape Canaveral sky there wasn’t much in the way to stop this launch shortly after the sun rose. At the T-minus zero mark all nine engines ignited and lifted Booster 1058 off the launch pad and into the sky. Roughly eight minutes later Bob & Doug’s former ride touched down on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions 620km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. The is now the boosters ninth launch and the third most launched first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. Pretty impressive considering its first mission was just in May of last year.
SpaceX’s Starlink Group 4-1 mission will launch fifty-three Starlink Satellites atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. There has been some speculation as to why only fifty-three as apposed to the previous sixty Starlinks there used to be per launch. Some think maybe the company has made some changes to them, causing more space to be taken up in the fairing. Others feel there may be an additional payload inside, something more secretive than a Starlink satellite. This is just speculations but considering the late notice of the launch and last minute change to the T-zero mark you never know what could be true when it comes to rocket launches.
As far as Starlinks go however, this was the thirtieth operational Starlink mission, which boosts the total number of orbiting satellites to 1,720. If you do the math there you’ll see some things don’t add up. That’s because some missions carried other satellites as well, and a few Starlinks were added to SpaceX’s Transporter-2 mission earlier this year. It’s also because some of the satellites went dark or had issues and the company needed to de-orbit them. The total number launched to date is 1,844. This however is the very first launch of the fourth Starlink shell, and will take about twenty-nine more launches to fill this shell in its desired orbit around our Earth. When all those are finished this fourth shell will consist of 1,584 operating satellites in a 540km low Earth orbit. This will also include seventy-two orbital planes with twenty-two satellites in each plane.
At this point you may even be wondering what exactly Starlink is. It has been awhile since we’ve seen a Starlink mission so I’ll fill you in. Starlink is SpaceX’s internet communications satellite constellation. From a low Earth orbit these satellites will deliver high speed, low latency internet services to locations around the world, especially were internet is unreliable, unavailable, or just plain expensive. Currently in it’s “Better Than Nothing Beta,” phase anyone in approved regions can pre order the service. With this now the thirtieth launch SpaceX has achieved near global coverage but the satellite constellation will not be complete until 42,000 of them are in orbit. It’s estimated that once complete SpaceX will profit thirty to fifty billion dollars annually, a profit the company will use to finance their Starship enterprise (see what I did there).