SpaceX successfully launched Falcon 9 for the 25th time so far in 2023 with its latest deployment of Starlink satellites this morning. Luckily the weather held off, allowing the launch to finally be completed two days after it was initially planned.
It’s always foggy in Vandenberg. If it were not for the roar of the engines, no one would have known SpaceX had just launched, thanks to the thick layer of fog over the launch pad. After a 2-day delay, the Starlink 3-5 mission has brought 46 version 1.5 satellites into orbit after launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Launching at 6:40 AM PT, the Falcon 9 ignited its engines and began its journey to orbit. Following an approximate 2:27 burn of the 9 Merlin 1D engines, the first and second stages separated, and B1061 headed down for a successful landing on the drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You,’ landing just under 6 minutes later. With this launch, B1061 has now launched and landed 13 times, including the Crew 1 and 2 launches for NASA.
After separating from the first stage, the 2nd stage of the Falcon 9 ignited its single Merlin 1D Vacuum engine for an approximate 6-minute burn to its parking orbit and coast phase before a quick 2-second restart of its engine 52 minutes into the mission to circularize its orbit and prepare the Starlink satellites for deployment. Coming just under 1 hour after liftoff, SpaceX deployed the 46 satellites into sun-synchronous orbit.
With the completion of this mission, SpaceX will have delivered over 4,200 Starlink satellites to orbit, with just over 3,300 still being operational.
This morning’s launch marks 220 missions for the Falcon 9 and the 25th mission for the rocket so far this year. Even with a slight slowdown this month compared to the first 3 months of the year, SpaceX is on pace to far exceed their recording-setting 2022 launch cadence. Next up for SpaceX is the Falcon Heavy ViaSat-3 mission, currently scheduled to launch at 7:29 PM ET (23:29 UTC) with a 57-minute launch window. The weather around Kennedy Space Center is currently expected to be 20 percent go for launch.