SpaceX launches Starlink satellites to higher orbit

After more than three-quarters of the satellites from the last launch were lost due to a solar storm, SpaceX launched a new batch of Starlink satellites on Feb. 21.

After a one-day delay due to bad weather, a Falcon 9 launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 9:44 a.m. Eastern. Because of a lack of ground station coverage, confirmation of a successful deployment of the Falcon 9 upper stage’s payload of 46 Starlink satellites didn’t come until roughly 20 minutes after liftoff.

The rocket’s first stage landed on a droneship in the Bahamas on its eleventh mission. The Demo-2 commercial crew flight, the CRS-21 cargo mission, the Anasis-2 satellite, two Transporter rideshare trips, and five Starlink missions were all launched from the stage earlier. The booster is the second in SpaceX’s fleet to launch 11 times.

This was the company’s seventh Falcon 9 flight of the year, putting it on track to launch over 50 times this year. The CSG-2 radar imaging satellite for Italy, the Transporter-3 rideshare mission, and a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office were all carried on this year’s Starlink missions.

This was the first launch since the launch of 49 Starlink satellites on February 3rd. However, five days later, the business reported that up to 40 of them will reenter the atmosphere due to increased air resistance at the low altitudes where the satellites were positioned, preventing their electric propulsion systems from boosting their orbits. In the end, 38 of the 49 satellites were re-entered.

With this flight, SpaceX chose a unique strategy. After a single burn of the upper stage, the satellites were sent into orbit at a perigee of 210 kilometers in the previous mission. A second fire was performed on this trip to deploy the satellites into a near circular orbit at an altitude of roughly 330 kilometers. The greater altitude lessens air drag, but it might also explain why this flight only carried three satellites compared to prior missions.

In its launch webcast, SpaceX avoided discussing the loss of the majority of the last batch of Starlink satellites, instead emphasizing on recent successes like as an update on the development of its Starship vehicle and the Polaris program of private crewed trips on Crew Dragon and Starship.

Another batch of Starlink satellites is due to fly on a Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Feb. 25.

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