SpaceX will be launching their next Falcon 9 rocket this morning at 6:17 AM PST, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The payload includes a Spanish observation satellite, as well as SpaceX’s first two satellites of what is to eventually become a giant “Starlink” network of 12,000 that will allow them to blanket the Earth with broadband internet.
Although the FCC hasn’t approved the whole picture just yet, they have given SpaceX the green light for these first two satellites, which allows SpaceX to test that the idea is going to work in the first place (which for them, shouldn’t be that hard).
With this network, they hope to cover you nearly anywhere you might find yourself on Earth, providing a very large amount of throughput to replace the mediocre satellite solutions that are currently available. This could also work great for pressuring the competition to speed up the evolution of their services and promote competitive pricing (hopefully).
Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband. If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 21, 2018
The Falcon 9’s first stage booster being used this round was previously used back in August 24th, 2017. They plan on scrapping the booster to make way for their next generation of the Falcon 9 boosters that will be designed for continuous multi-use. Although SpaceX does not plan on recovering it a second time, this will prove to be yet another opportunity to show off the boosters multi-use capabilities.
They do plan on recovering the fairing used using a ship named “Mr. Steven” which will (if all works out) simply catch it after it has broken its own fall with onboard thrusters and parafoil.
This mission has been delayed a number of times due to increased time for pre-launch system checks, final checks of the upgraded fairing, and now moved to today from yesterday due to high winds. SpaceX doesn’t want to take any chances after they had such a successful performance earlier in the month with the launch of the Falcon Heavy.
Mission Timeline (all times approximate)
– 01:13:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
– 01:10:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
– 00:35:00 LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
– 00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
– 00:01:00 Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
– 00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff
LAUNCH AND SATELLITE DEPLOYMENT
00:01:17 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:29 1st stage engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:33 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:40 2nd stage engine starts
00:02:56 Fairing deployment
00:08:58 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:10:58 PAZ satellite deployment
Update: The launch was successful, as was the release of the PAZ satellite. SpaceX is not streaming the release of the Starlink demo satellites as the craft will be out of camera range by then. Their stream ended as soon as PAZ was released.