February 21th at 9:44 AM Est from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Starlink 4-8 may seem like another ordinary mission for SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation, but it also makes on more feat that was once extraordinary to more ordinary. Falcon 9 booster 1058 made its eleventh successful flight this morning as it lifted off from the Canaveral Space Force Station then landed down on drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas out in the Atlantic Ocean. To date this is now the second Falcon 9 booster to reach as many, with no booster yet to reach a twelfth mission.
B1058 of course is none other than the same booster that returned crewed space flight to America when Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew atop her on their DM-2 mission back in May of 2020. Many called for SpaceX to put the booster on display somewhere, saying it belonged in a museum. Well, the company appeared to have other plans for that booster, after all they aren’t exactly cheap. Just fifty-one days after that historic DM-2 mission, this booster went on to fly the ANASIS-II mission, launching a South Korean government communications satellite. It has since flown a number of Starlink missions, one CRS (Commercial Resupply Services) mission for NASA, and the latest, Transporter-3. Incredibly the T3 mission was just a few days over one month ago, January 13th. That is quite a turnaround time for refurbishing this booster, showing that SpaceX is wasting no time still this year getting payloads up and trying to get as many Starlinks as possible into orbit.
Starlink 4-7, which launched on the third of this month has now lost about forty of those forty-eight satellites due to a geomagnetic storm. SpaceX initially deploys these satellites into an orbit about 130 miles high before raising them to their desired orbits. The company does this so that if any issues with the sats arise they can be disposed of quickly as they will burn up reentering Earth’s atmosphere. That cautious approach caused these satellites to be lost as it was there, they were left vulnerable to the geomagnetic storm which rendered them unusable.
It was reported via SpaceX’s Twitter account Friday that the team will be launching forty-six Starlink satellites this mission. Speculation is that the lower number is so they can reach a higher orbit and hopefully avoid any serious issues like the previous mission and give better odds to making sure all the satellites will become operational.
With this launch now, SpaceX has sent seven missions into orbit in the last two months, this also comes with a rumor of one more to launch before March. That would make eight missions in two months, and thirteen total missions in three months. It has been rumored the company is looking to reach over fifty, that’s right, five-zero launches this year. That equates to about one per week, and so far, they are sticking to the cadence to fulfil that manifest.