WASHINGTON — After setting a document for launch exercise in 2021, SpaceX began 2022 with the Falcon 9 launch of a set of Starlink satellites Jan. 6.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A on the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:49 p.m. Eastern on a mission designated Starlink 4-5 by SpaceX. Its payload of 49 Starlink satellites separated from the higher stage 15 and a half minutes after liftoff, however due to an absence of floor station protection, affirmation of the separation didn’t happen till about an hour later.
The rocket’s first stage landed on a droneship within the Atlantic Ocean close to The Bahamas practically 9 minutes after liftoff. The booster accomplished its fourth flight, having beforehand been used for 2 GPS 3 satellite tv for pc launches and the Inspiration4 business Crew Dragon mission.
The launch took an uncommon southeastern trajectory, somewhat than the northeastern trajectory used for earlier Starlink launches from Florida. A Space Force official stated it was the primary of a number of projected for January that may go on southern, or polar, trajectories.
“The 2022 launch tempo goes to be exceptionally busy with as much as 5 polar, and 7 complete launches, projected for the month of January alone,” Maj. Jonathan Szul, director of operations for the First Range Operations Squadron at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, stated in a Jan. 4 assertion. “While three polar missions efficiently launched previously yr and a half, Cape Canaveral has by no means had 5 southern trajectory launches in a single month.”
He didn’t listing the polar launches anticipated in January past Starlink 4-5. One of them is Transporter-3, the devoted rideshare Falcon 9 launch at present scheduled for Jan. 13. Another is probably going the Falcon 9 launch of a Cosmo-Skymed Second Generation radar imaging satellite tv for pc for the Italian house company ASI, anticipated in late January. The different polar launches could also be Starlink missions.
The higher use of launches on southern trajectories was a priority for Space Launch Delta 45, the Space Force unit that operates the Eastern Range, due to completely different airspace and maritime restrictions that pilots and boaters might not be used to. “Due to the distinctive southerly trajectories, there will likely be a bigger potential influence to air and sea site visitors alongside the southeast coast of Florida,” Szul stated.
This first SpaceX launch of 2022 — additionally the primary orbital launch worldwide of the brand new yr — comes after SpaceX set an organization document in 2021 with 31 orbital launches, all on Falcon 9 rockets.
SpaceX has not introduced a objective for 2022, however in a panel dialogue at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week Dec. 13, Tom Ochinero, vice chairman of business gross sales at SpaceX, stated the corporate’s plans for 2022 included at the very least three crewed missions and 5 launches of the Falcon Heavy, which final launched in 2019. “Next yr will likely be extra thrilling,” he stated of 2022.