Starlink Launch

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#72
Yazata Offline
Veteran booster B1049 launched, put its 60 Starlinks up, returned and landed on OCISLY like flying seven times was nothing. Been there, done that. All in a day's work.

https://twitter.com/NASASpaceflight/stat...5021566977

https://twitter.com/NASASpaceflight/stat...9306034176

When SpaceX originally said they wanted to fly their Block 5 Falcons 10 times without major overhauls, I was skeptical. But after watching B1049 put up seven trips to and from space with no problems, it looks very doable. Elon has said that with periodic overhauls, he sees no reason why they can't do 100! But Gwynne has said that she doesn't really expect any to do that many. Maybe because many customers remain leery of the old-timer boosters and are willing to pay considerably more to fly on a new booster. Which is why SpaceX has been using the old-timers for its own in-house Starlink missions. They are both putting up their Starlinks at little cost since the rocket's price-tag has already been amortized during earlier flights, they are also demonstrating what these older boosters can do and how reliable they still are.
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#73
Yazata Offline
If you haven't had your fill of Starlinks (and who has??) there's another batch going up tomorrow morning. Launch will be at a healthy early afternoon 13:23 UTC for you Brits, 8:23 AM EST in Cape Canaveral where it leaves from and an ungodly 5:23 AM in my PST (it will still be dark out!!). But if the SpaceX'ers in Hawthorne have to be up, I guess that I can be too. (What else is there to do in our new covid reality?)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect will be the booster, B1051.8! If it sounds familiar, it's already been to space seven times and it's going for a new record eight flights! When SpaceX originally said that the Block 5 Falcons were designed for ten flights without need for significant refurbishment, it sounded outlandish. But here they are closing in on it.

B1051's previous flights were Demo 1 (that delivered Little Earth to the Space Station on the first unmanned flight of a Crew Dragon), then the Canadian Radarsat from Vandenberg, then four different Starlink launches, then a satellite for Sirius XM, now back again for more Starlinks.

Here's the mission page from Michael Baylor's helpful and fascinating nextspaceflight.com website.

https://nextspaceflight.com/launches/details/2671

Recovery will be at sea on JRTI.

It will be live-streamed by SpaceX and all that.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Nct_Q9Lqw
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#75
Yazata Offline
More Starlinks went today.

The most interesting aspect of today's flight was that the booster was trusty old B1051 back for a record breaking ninth flight. (Making it B1051.9 in SpaceX's numbering scheme.) This is the booster whose first flight was Demo-1, which delivered a Dragon carrying Ripley and Little Earth to the Space Station so long ago.

https://nextspaceflight.com/launches/reuse/42

Here it is launching

https://twitter.com/NASASpaceflight/stat...1466579968

It didn't only get off the pad successfully, it delivered all of its Starlinks to the desired orbit.

Then it blithely returned to Earth and nailed its ninth landing precisely in the center of the landing circle on OCISLY! It wasn't a big deal as far as B1051.9 is concerned. It's been there, done that. Many times.

https://twitter.com/NASASpaceflight/stat...4212631552

When Elon said that he wanted to refly rockets over and over like airlines refly airliners, everyone said he was crazy. Can't be done!

When SpaceX said that they designed the Block 5 Falcons to be capable of ten flights without major maintainence, the response was a sarcastic 'Yeah, right!' Well B1051.9 is almost there. (Michael Baylor says that they hope to fly it a 10th time in as little as a month.) Gwynne has said that with proper periodic servicing, the Falcons can probably do 100 flights. Though she doesn't anticipate any of them reaching 100, since the Starship should be ready by then and it promises to knock down the price of putting a kilogram in orbit by another order of magnitude.

It's completely transforming the economics of space launches. If SpaceX completes their entire launch manifest for this year, the Falcons will have launched more mass to orbit than all of the world's other rockets... combined. So far this year, SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 on average every nine days! That's a cadence that's absolutely unheard of in aerospace where it's more common to launch one, two or three times a year. The demand is a function of price which in turn is a function of reusability.

Much of that launch manifest is their own Starlinks. This in turn promises to become the world's largest (and coolest) high-speed low-latency internet service provider, the only one available on remote islands, ships at sea, most of Africa, Siberia, the Australian outback and much of Canada. It's very possibly destined to become the worlds largest telecommunications company, period. SpaceX plans to spin off Starlink as its own publicly traded company at some point (when it has positive cash flow) but will doubtless continue to own a big controlling block of stock that will hopefully be a cash-cow to help fund Starship and its future exploits.

Right now SpaceX can launch Starlinks for next to nothing using reflown boosters that have already essentially paid for themselves by flying other customers. That's an advantage that no other would-be satellite internet provider has.
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#76
Yazata Offline
Don't let MR see this... it's compelling video of an IFO/identified flying object (B1051.9, or more likely its second stage) seen along the whole east coast right before sunrise on Sunday. On the west coast these sky shows happen with space launches right after sunset. On the east coast they happen right before sunrise.

https://twitter.com/RobbMDWxMedia/status...4797639682

And here's something very cool. It's engineering telemetry video that the Falcon second stage was sending back as it passed over Europe. It was detected and decoded by radio amateurs. It includes two views broadcast on the SpaceX stream, a great crystal clear view of the second stage Merlin vacuum engine and a view of the Starlinks before deployment. But along with it is a view that might be of particular interest to the SX engineers, a view inside the almost empty second stage LOX tank. The Falcons (and presumably Starships as well) all have video cameras inside their propellant tanks to give the engineers some idea how the propellant is behaving during all the differnt accelerations and in zero G. In these shots, the second stage is coasting in orbit and the last dregs of LOX (the blue stuff on the tank dome) is weightless. If you look closely, you will see that the fluid doesn't have a flat surface like we would expect on Earth, but appears to be humped up with a rounded surface.

https://twitter.com/r2x0t/status/1371054115875348480
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#79
Yazata Offline
Tomorrow promises to be an exciting day. First, it looks like Sn 15 might be flying in Boca Chica. And as an added bonus, old veteran B1049 will be trying to loft a flock of Starlinks on its 9th trip to space. That will match the Falcon9 record, held by B1051.9. SpaceX is closing in on the design goal of ten flights without a major overhaul. (It sounded like Elon hyperbole when it was first announced.) Recovery will be on OCISLY.

Time for that one will be 19:01 UTC/3:01 PM EDT/12:01 PM PDT.

It should be livestreamed by SpaceX here

https://www.spacex.com/

More from Michael Baylor's indispensible website

https://nextspaceflight.com/launches/details/2680
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#80
Yazata Offline
B1049's co-occupation of 9-flight record territory looks to be short lived, since fellow 9-time-flyer B1051 is set to make its 10th flight as early as this Sunday May 9th!

There's no rest for the weary SpaceX boosters. It looks like they are pushing these "flight leader" boosters as hard as they can to see how they perform with lots of launches on their resumes. What parts are performing better than expected? What parts look like they need replacing? My guess is that at the very least, the engines will need swapping out. They are fueled by rocket grade kerosine and this fuel leaves lots of coke deposits behind when heated really hot. So deposit buildup in the turbopumps and fuel injectors will almost certainly be a limiting factor on how many times they can reuse Merlin engines. The methane powered Raptor engines burn a lot cleaner and won't suffer this kind of crud buildup. That's one of several reasons they went with liquid methane fuel for the Raptors. (This is a challenge that only crops up for multiple reused rocket engines, it doesn't really trouble single-use throwaway boosters.)

https://nextspaceflight.com/launches/details/5331
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