May 18 at 6:20 am E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center
For the third Starlink mission in a week’s time Falcon 9 B1052 will be making its fifth flight for SpaceX, but only its third flight as a Falcon 9. B1052 started its service in the launching fleet as a Falcon Heavy side booster, flying on the Arabsat 6A mission, then again on the STP-2 launch. Both times touching back down at LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It was over two years later when we saw this booster finally fly again on the CSG-2 mission in January of this year. There again it touched down at LZ-1, making it one of if not the only booster to fly three times and never utilize a drone ship for landing. That changed however during the Starlink 4-10 mission in March when after sending fifty-three satellites into orbit it touched down on the drone ship ASOG (A Shortfall of Gravitas) in the Atlantic Ocean. ASOG was the landing ship of choice for today’s mission as well. About eight minutes after liftoff B1052 landing again on the newest drone ship 626km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
Today’s launch marked the 155th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket and the 121st successful landing as everything went nominal all just before the sun rose on the space coast. If you’re keeping track, like we are, this is the seventeenth launch of the fourth Starlink shell, and there will be about thirteen more until the shell is completely filled. This also makes 2405 operational Starlink satellites in orbit with over 2650 having been launched.
If you need a refresher as to what Starlink is, then here you go. Starlink is an internet communications satellite constellation for the company SpaceX. Their low Earth orbit constellation will deliver fast, low-latency, internet service across the globe and service hard to reach locations or areas where ground base service is unreliable or unavailable. After the first twenty-eight launches SpaceX achieved near global coverage but will take 42,000 satellites to completely provide service to every corner of the Earth. When it’s all said and done, Starlink is expected to profit 30-50 billion dollars annually and will finance the company’s Starship program along with Mars Base Alpha.