Falcon 9 rocket sets new payload weight record during SpaceX Starlink launch

The Falcon 9, loaded with 56 Starlink satellites, at power-up on Thursday, January 25.

The Falcon 9, loaded with 56 Starlink satellites, at power-up on Thursday, January 25.
Screenshot: spacex

SpaceX’s incredibly reliable Falcon 9 continues to impress. The rocket delivered 56 Starlink satellites into Earth orbit this morning and, with a collective weight of around 17.4 metric tons, is now the heaviest payload ever lifted by a Falcon 9 rocket.

Burstshutdown occurred at 4:22 a.m. ET on Thursday, with the 229 feet high (70-subway) Falcon 9 taking flight from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The first stage booster, which participated in its ninth launch, returned to Earth about nine minutes later. landing safely about him Just read the instructions parked droneship northeast of the Bahamas. SpaceX later confirmed that the rocket succeeded in deploying all 56 Starlink satellites.

Routine stuff, except for the weight involved. With a combined payload weight exceeding 17.4 metric tons, the mission marks the “heaviest payload ever flown” in a Falcon 9, SpaceX announced in a statement. cheep. He previous payload weight record for Falcon 9 it was set in August 2022, when the rocket lifted 16.7 metric tons into orbit. “The most likely explanation for the heavier payload appears to be another iterative improvement to Falcon 9.” according to to Teslarati.

In terms of quantity, the 56 satellites are well below the Falcon 9 record set in January 2021 when the rocket delivered 143 satellites as part of the Transporter-1 carpool mission. Additionally, SpaceX routinely launched 60 V1.0 Starlinks during a period from 2019 to 2021. The upgraded V1.5 units are heavier, forcing SpaceX to launch smaller numbers with its reusable Falcon 9.. The medium-lift rocket’s nine Merlin engines exert 1.7 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The newly launched Starlinks will now ascend into their operational orbit: an aircraft designed as the Starlink 5-2. This is SpaceX’s second Starlink deployment in that shell, the first being a batch of 54 satellites launched on December 28, 2022. This shell is intended for the company’s second part.generation of Starlinks, leading to considerable confusion about what type of satellite is being installed these days.

Second-The Starlinks generation, known as Gen2, will be larger than previous versions, with added capabilities that will allow direct connectivity to mobile phones, hence the recent arrangement between SpaceX and T-mobile. Gen2s should too improve Starlink coverage at lower latitudes. The Starlink system now counts more than a million subscribers and is available on all continents, Antarctica included.

But the heavier and bulkier Gen2s require a rocket that hasn’t launched yet: Starship. Until SpaceX’s new megarocket is deemed airworthy, the company plans to launch Gen2 in miniature with the same form factor as V1.5 Starlinks, allowing for launches aboard Falcon 9.

Back in December When SpaceX sent the first batch of Starlinks to the Gen2 shell, many spaceflight experts assumed the company was sending miniature Gen2s into space. However, the research of the Harvard-Smithson astronomer, Jonathan McDowell, put an end to these rumors, since learned that SpaceX is still launching V1.5 Starlinks into space.

Today’s launch was likely the same, with a batch of V1.5 Starlinks launched into low Earth orbit. Or at least, that’s my best guess. As McDowell tweeted at the time, “SpaceX is consistently vague in everything it says.” Safely. And it doesn’t help that SpaceX won’t respond to media questions; both for CEO Elon Musk declared obsession with transparency.

On December 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the launch of 7,500 Gen2, of the 29,988 planned by SpaceX. The FCC is postponing its decision on the remaining units until later, saying the postponement will “protect other satellite and terrestrial operators from harmful interference and maintain a safe space environment, promote competition, and protect spectrum and orbital resources for future use.” .

SpaceX recently performed a full wet Starship dress rehearsalso it may only be a matter of time before the company can start launching its supersized Gen2 Starlinks into orbit.

More: SpaceX gets ‘partial’ FCC approval to deploy second-generation Starlink satellites

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