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SpaceX launches 53 Starlink satellites, triumphs record turnaround time

This Particular Falcon 9 Booster also launched the Ax-1 mission 21 days ago.

Starlink G4-16 Launch (Credit: SpaceX/ Ben Cooper)

April 29, 2022 SpaceX launches the Starlink L43 Group 4-16 (v1.5 L14) mission with 53 satellites by the Falcon 9 (“core” B1062.6) rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), The Rocket lifted off today at 21:27 UTC (5:27 p.m EDT).

SpaceX sets a new record by launching a mission with the company's quickest-ever turnaround of a pre-flown booster 'core' that just 21 days ago returned from its last flight – the launch of the Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station.

This was the sixth flight for the Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched GPS III Space Vehicle 04, GPS III Space Vehicle 05, Inspiration4, Ax-1, and now two Starlink missions.

About 8.5 minutes later, the rocket's first stage returned to Earth and landed on the SpaceX droneship Just Read The Instructions, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

Infographic by S.I and HDE

The Droneship ferry was towed by the tug Finn Falgout and is accessed by the support vessel Bob, which will retrieve the two fairing halfs 648 km off the Cape Canaveral.

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket comes down for a landing on the droneship Just Read The Instructions on April 29, 2022.

Today's launch continued a very busy stretch for SpaceX. It was the company's fourth liftoff in the last 12 days and the second in just three days; a Falcon 9 launched the Crew-4 mission for NASA on Wednesday (April 27), sending four astronauts to the International Space Station.

Launch, Landing and Deployment Timeline (HH:mm:ss)

  • 00:00:00 Falcon 9 takeoff

  • 00:01:12 Max Q (moment of maximum mechanical, aerodynamic stress on the rocket)

  • 00:02:30 Cut-off of the 1st stage main engines (MECO)

  • 00:02:35 separate first and second stages (staging)

  • 00:02:42 2nd stage engine ignition (SES-1)

  • 00:02:51 Fairing Jettison

  • 00:06:12 Start of 1st stage re-entry firing

  • 00:06:32 1st stage re-entry burn completed

  • 00:08:02 Start of the 1st stage landing burn

  • 00:08:24 First stage landing

  • 00:08:49 1st Cut-off of the 2nd stage engine (SECO-1)

  • 00:45:22 2nd ignition of the 2nd stage engine (SES-2)

  • 00:45:24 2nd Cut-off of the 2nd stage engine (SECO-2)

  • 00:59:30 Starlink satellites are deployed to Parking Orbit.

Starlink Updates

JSX, the California-based public charter operator, will become the first airline to operate aircraft using SpaceX’s Starlink satellites for in-flight connectivity (IFC) service. The company posted the announcement to its LinkedIn and Twitter accounts last Thursday, indicating that its first SpaceX-equipped aircraft will start flying with Starlink’s IFC service this year.

Jonathan Hofeller, the vice president of SpaceX, has also discussed the company’s plans for in-flight connectivity services in several public appearances over the last year. At the SATELLITE 2022 conference in March, Hofeller said the Starlink IFC service will be capable of enabling streaming to every passenger on an aircraft.

“We believe in a future where connectivity is abundant, you’re not scrapping for kilobits per second here. It’s so much that people get on the plane, and they stream just like they do in their home, so we’re designing a service that every single passenger on that plan can stream simultaneously if need be,” Hofeller said, according to CNBC.

Separately, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Delta Air Lines has held talks with SpaceX and conducted exploratory tests of Starlink’s technology.

Customer complaints and queries

Musk's SpaceX apologized to some customers for its lack of Starlink customer support as it over-expanded the satellite internet network. The Starlink team said in a message, posted on Reddit by a customer named Robert Smith, that it "delayed our normal response time" and "this is not the level of support we intend to provide." The company said it is making improvements to its service, including adding more people to its support team, according to the message. He added that there may be an “unusual delay” before they respond to customers, and someone on the team will respond “eventually”.

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