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SpaceX launches yet another Starlink batch, the G4-23

Record payload for the company's satellite internet constellation system

Starlink G4-23 launch, Photo Credit: Ben Cooper

The Falcon 9 v1.2 FT Block 5 “Booster number B1069.2” carrying 54 Starlink satellites took off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Saturday, August 27, 2022 at 11:41 pm EDT (0341 GMT on August 28). The liftoff took place about 80 minutes later than planned, as SpaceX expected the bad weather to pass. Just under nine minutes after launch, the rocket's first stage ('core') returned to Earth for a landing on the drone ferry A Shortfall of Gravitas., which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, east of Charleston, South Carolina. Weather conditions were questionable on Saturday night, with thunder and lightning in the launch site area. SpaceX delayed the launch opportunity at 22:22 EDT (0222 GMT) due to the storms, but the weather improved to the second of the two available times on Saturday. The rocket had a liftoff mass of 568,478 kg, with the stack of fifty-four satellites weighing 16,578 kg.

Fifteen minutes after liftoff, the upper stage carrying “Starlink 4-23” stack into an initial orbit of 232 by 336 kilometers. The launcher aimed for an orbital inclination of 53.2 degrees to the equator. With the Starlink 4-23 mission, the company has now launched 3,162 satellites, including prototypes and test units that are no longer in service. The launch was SpaceX's 57th mission primarily dedicated to putting the Starlinks into orbit.

First stage B1069 completed its second flight after sustaining damage while recovering on the ferry on December 21 following its first mission, which sent a Cargo Dragon cargo craft towards the International Space Station. The difficult recovery damaged the engines and landing legs, causing the rocket to tip over as it returned aboard the drone ship to Port Canaveral. The damage forced SpaceX and NASA to switch to a reserve 'core' for the launch of four astronauts to the space station in April. This release was originally supposed to use the B1069, which was restyled with new engines and other components.

Today's launch, SpaceX's 38th of the year and 50th Orbital spaceflight from the United States, set a record for the heaviest payload ever launched by a Falcon 9 rocket and came days after SpaceX and T-Mobile unveiled plans to use a new generation of satellites to provide “ubiquitous” connectivity to existing cell phones. The second-generation satellites will be much larger than the current design and will be launched on the new Starship rocket ship currently under development.

The addition of one more satellite – each Starlink weighs more than 300 kg – suggests that SpaceX has slightly improved the rocket's payload capacity, and the satellites on Saturday night's flight added up to the heaviest payload ever launched in an orbital plane with more than 16,700 kg.

The launch took place about 33 hours before the launch of the SLS lunar rocket with the Artemis I mission in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center. The rocket is on platform 39B, about 8 kilometers north of the Falcon 9 launch site on platform 40.

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