Spacex has successfully launched another Party of 60 Starlink Internet Satellites, bringing the total number of devices in grouping up to 1600. During this launch, Spacex installed a new record — the same first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket started at the 10th time, and Then she laughed safely onto the landing platform in the Atlantic. This start is important for another reason — the number of working satellites in orbit reached 1440. Previously, Spacex called such a grouping minimum necessary to start providing full-fledged commercial services.
Today’s Mission is the 26th Starlink Start and the 14th Spacex launch in 2021. All starts of this year were conducted on reused media. But the start of May 9 was particularly noteworthy — it used the first stage of Falcon 9 under the designation B1051, which had already flown 9 times. And the last time — most recently, March 14,
For the first time this stage was used during the first launch of the Crew Dragon piloted spacecraft in March 2019. In the following eight missions, she launched satellites: in two missions, she took out third-party satellites (Radarsat and SXM-7), and in the remaining six launched Starlink satellites. In addition, in the start of May 9, restored halves of the head fairing were applied. Like a carrier, they have already been used in previous starts, however, only once — in November 2020 to launch an upgraded GPS III satellite for US space forces.
After removing the useful cargo to the predetermined height, the first stage Falcon 9 safely performed a decline and landing on the ocean plane. It will be used by the company further until some breakdown happens. At a press conference in April, Ilon Mask said that the first stage of Falcon 9, apparently, there is no obvious reuse limit. The company’s engineers themselves are interested in learn what its resource.
At the same press conference, Mask explained the SPACEX strategy against the first-time steps — for manned launches, the company uses those that have already flown 2-3 times, withdrawing satellites. Such steps are considered proven in real flights and, because of this, more reliable than quite new ones. But with an increase in the number of launches, it obviously accumulates the fatigue of the design and apply such steps — which flew 5-7 times — for manned starts no longer appropriate, as the risks increase. Therefore, very new steps and many times flying are used to eliminate satellites.
With the removal of a fresh part of 60 satellites, the StarLink group reached 1,600 devices, of which workers are no longer less than 1440. This means that Spacex can start providing full commercial services for the provision of satellite Internet at any time — this is exactly the number of devices the company more than once. The required minimum for the full work of the entire network.
It is also worth noting the overall growth of the launch intensity by Spacex. In 2020, she conducted a record 26 starts for themselves. This year, by May 10, the company has already made 14 launches that, while maintaining a tempo, it may mean that by the end of the year it can spend in the area 50 of the launches or even more. Only for the last week Spacex sent 2 missions to orbit with Starlink satellites — 4 and 9th.
At the beginning of last year, Mask somehow stated that he dreams about the time when Spacex could make launches twice a week. First of all, for the rapid growth of the STARLINK grouping — the company will have to withdraw another 2,800 satellites of only the so-called first phase. These are still 47 starts. And the total number of satellites in the constellation can be brought over time to 30 thousand.
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