September 10 at 9:10 pm E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center
With no end in sight SpaceX continues to launch Starlink mission after Starlink mission. Tonight’s launch came with an added bonus as well, the BlueWalker 3 satellite. It is a prototype communication satellite built and operated by AST & Sciences. It will test AST & Sciences ability to connect to cellphones in space. They have a constellation planned called SpaceMobile which can connect to the newly announced iPhone 14 providing services when normally not available for emergency services. SpaceX and T-mobile recently announced a joint venture in which the second generation Starlink satellites will act as cell towers, providing T-mobile users the ability to text and call anywhere in the world.
This BlueWalker 3 satellite has a total mass of 1500 kg and will deploy upon orbit insertion a ten meter antenna. It is smaller than the upcoming SpaceMobile satellites but will function for the testing phase of operations. It is powered by solar cells with several batteries to provide solid connection during the orbital night time. Because of the size though only thirty-four Starlink satellites were launched aboard the Falcon 9 this evening. Normally we see around fifty-three Starlinks per launch, but have seen less several times with other payloads involved in the mission and we have also seen a few more a few times as well.
Tonight we saw the first SpaceX Falcon 9 booster to reach fourteen flights. The booster is none other than B1058, the same Falcon 9 we saw during the Launch America campaign to return crewed space flight to American soil. B1058 first flew on the DM-2 mission where astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were the first to fly again from home soil since the end of the shuttle program. After recently being certified for up to fifteen flights SpaceX is certainly taking advantage of the boosters they have. Numerous Falcon 9’s have now flown past the coveted ten flight mark and there is some speculation that the company may expend a few boosters later this year on their fifteenth mission. There are launches which require more power to get to a further orbit. More power means more fuel burned on the way up, and less fuel available to bring the booster back to the landing site. It is rumored SpaceX has pushed those launches back in cadence to get the most flights they can from their fleet and expend those boosters on their fifteenth flight instead of wasting money on a booster that could have flown again.