Wednesday at 8:45 AM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at CCSFS
If you feel like you’re having Deja vu, you aren’t. Or maybe you are, this is SpaceX’s sixth launch of Starlink satellites this year after all. The company’s internet constellation has grown today as forty-seven more satellites are now in orbit. That’s thirty-nine launches total for Starlink missions, and 2,039 now in operation above our sky.
One thing different with this launch however is that today’s Falcon 9 booster, B1052 has only flown four times now, making it a relative newbie of the launching fleet. It also has only ever landed back at LZ-1 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, this will mark its first landing at sea. The last few Starlink launches we’ve seen from the space coast all came with boosters who’ve flown almost, if not more than ten flights. The booster started its life as a side booster for the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, flying twice in 2019. Since then it has sat dormant in storage until January of this year when it flew its first mission as a true Falcon 9 rocket on the CSG-2 mission.
Today’s launch was another on a Southern trajectory with the booster landing on the drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas downrange 642km off the coast of the Bahamas. Supporting ASOG on the mission was Doug, a SpaceX vessel which will recovery the fairings shortly from the sea where they splashed down, about 648km downrange.
The site of today’s launch was none other than SLC-40 or Space Launch Complex 40 and is one of two launch sites used by SpaceX for their Falcon 9 rockets in Cape Canaveral. Built in the 1960’s it was originally used to launch the Titan III and Titan IV rockets up until 2005. Two years later SpaceX leased the pad and converted it to be able to launch their original version of the Falcon 9. Then in 2013 it was upgraded again to accommodate the larger block 5 Falcon 9 rockets. In 2016 when a rocket explosion during a static fire test destroyed the entire pad operations were halted for about ten months while the company completely rebuilt the launch site. Today’s launch marks a total of 81 launches for SpaceX at SLC-40 over their tenure.