SpaceX’s second Starlink Gen2 launch will carry 56 satellites, probably making it the heaviest payload the corporate has ever launched.
At 9:30 am EST, SpaceX accomplished a static fireplace of the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket assigned to launch its subsequent Starlink mission. Half an hour later, SpaceX confirmed that the rocket carried out nicely and is scheduled to launch no sooner than 4:32 am EST (09:32 UTC) on Thursday, January twenty sixth. SpaceX didn’t state the mission’s function, however shorthand (“sl5-2”) utilized in an official web site URL implies that will probably be the second launch for its Starlink Gen2 satellite tv for pc constellation.
SpaceX additionally reported that Starlink 5-2 will carry 56 satellites, which means that the mission may set a brand new Falcon 9 payload file.
56 is just not a file variety of satellites for a SpaceX launch or a Starlink launch. SpaceX has launched a file 143 rideshare payloads without delay, and the corporate routinely launched 60 Starlink satellites at a time all through 2019, 2020, and a part of 2021. However these Starlink satellites have been the primary variations (V1.0) of the spacecraft and weighed both 227 or 260 kilograms (500/570 lbs) apiece.
Within the second half of 2021, SpaceX started launching new Starlink V1.5 satellites. Outfitted with new laser hyperlinks (optical terminals) and different basic upgrades, the brand new satellites reportedly weigh 303, 307, or 309 kilograms (668, 676, or 681 lb) every. The heavier design compelled SpaceX to barely cut back the variety of satellites every launch may carry. After some optimization, SpaceX often launches as much as 54 Starlink V1.5 satellites at a time, down from 60 V1.0 satellites.
The variety of satellites could also be smaller, however the mass of the payload launched has by no means been increased. SpaceX final broke Falcon 9’s payload mass file in August 2022, when it launched 54 Starlink V1.5 satellites for the primary time. The payload reportedly weighed 16.7 tons (~36,800 lb), breaking the earlier file of 16.25 tons by about 3%. The heaviest 60-satellite Starlink V1.0 payload weighed round 15.6 tons (~34,400 lb).
Now, SpaceX says it would launch 56 Starlink satellites – possible heavier V1.5 variants – without delay. If SpaceX hasn’t lowered the burden of every satellite tv for pc, the payload may weigh wherever from 16.97 to 17.3 tons (37,400-38,200 lb). Starlink 5-2 is concentrating on the identical orbit as Starlink 5-1, which carried 54 satellites. The likeliest rationalization for the heavier payload seems to be one other iterative enchancment to Falcon 9.
As SpaceX positive factors confidence in and expertise with Falcon 9, it’s been capable of tweak the timing of sure launch occasions, increase efficiency limits, and cut back sure margins. If Starlink 5-2’s Starlink satellites are unchanged, SpaceX’s tweaks can have collectively boosted Falcon 9’s efficiency by ~10% (15.6 to ~17 tons) in two years.
Gen1, V1.0, V1.5, Gen2, V2.0
Starlink 5-2 additionally continues the development of confusion created by the corporate’s first Starlink Gen2 launch, which it deemed Starlink 5-1. The naming scheme implied that the satellites have been a continuation of the corporate’s first constellation, Starlink Gen1, however SpaceX confirmed that they have been truly the primary Starlink Gen2 satellites. That SpaceX is launching 54 (and now 56) satellites additionally confirms that they’re possible the identical V1.5 satellites the corporate has been launching for 18 months.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has outright acknowledged that the firm may go bankrupt if it couldn’t start launching a lot bigger Starlink V2.0 satellites on its Starship rocket within the close to future. As an alternative, SpaceX is doing the precise reverse and is populating its Starlink Gen2 constellation with Gen1-sized satellites. It’s unclear when SpaceX will start launching the bigger Starlink V2.0 satellites that have been meant to be the mainstay of the Gen2 constellation.
Tune in under round 4:25 am EST (09:15 UTC), January twenty fifth, to observe SpaceX’s second Starlink Gen2 launch stay.