SpaceX launched 46 Starlink satellites, landing rockets on drone ships
Starlink Group went up 3-3 at 5:40 p.m. EDT (2140 GMT) to orbit experiencing ‘squalls’ of space debris.
SpaceX launched the second batch of its Starlink Internet satellites on Friday (August 12).
SpaceX launched Group 3-3 of the Starlink constellation from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 5:40 p.m. EDT (2140 GMT; 2:40 p.m. local time).
Falcon 9 rocket launched 46 Starlink spacecraft into space. About nine minutes after launch, the rocket’s first stage disembarked less than nine minutes after landing on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. The satellite was expected to be deployed 63 minutes after launch after the end of the livestream in the second phase.
The new group of satellites is part of Group 3, which orbits in a shell that could be “squalled” by a Russian anti-satellite test in November 2021, according to a recent report by SpaceNews tab).
SpaceNews reports that space-tracking company COMSPOC recently revealed an event called a “conjunction squall,” during which 6,000 close approaches affected 841 Starlink satellites, representing about 30% of the SpaceX constellation.
According to COMSPOC standards, it is defined as two orbiting objects within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of each other. SpaceX has not commented on whether any Starlinks were affected, but in previous discussions about space junk, the company has emphasized that its satellites can maneuver to avoid passing spacecraft or debris.
The Group 3 (of SpaceX’s five layers of satellites) spacecraft are in the same orbit as other sun-synchronous satellites that have previously approached the Russian ASAT cluster, COMSPOC said in the report.
Group 3 has an inclination of 97.6 degrees and an altitude of 347 miles (560 kilometers), according to TeslaRati (opens in new tab). SpaceX has already sent two other Group 3 collections into orbit from Vandenberg on July 10 and July 22.
SpaceX’s 36th launch in 2022 adds to its ever-growing record for most launches in a year. The company also completed the 62nd consecutive landing of the first stage and the 34th reflight of the booster in 2022.
Friday’s flight was the 10th for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, according to the SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab).