SpaceX brings more Starlink satellites into orbit
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 soared Friday into a mostly blue sky from Vandenberg Space Base, bringing 52 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit.
The rocket took off at 12:26 p.m. from Space Launch Complex (SLC-4E)
As usual, the rocket’s first stage booster returned to Earth and landed on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You off the California coast. This was the eighth launch and landing for this booster.
Friday’s takeoff was SpaceX’s 18th launch of 2023 and 217th mission to date.
Everything went smoothly from the start. “The team is tracking no issues,” a SpaceX announcer said four minutes before the launch during the broadcast on SpaceX.com.
As usual, white puffs came around the sides of the rocket. The announcer explained that was the normal result of cold gas coming into contact with the warmer California air.
Another announcer calmly expressed the “10.. 9… 8…,” etc. countdown.
Then off it went.
“Go Falcon, go Starlink,” the announcer said, calm but upbeat.
The usual flame under the rocket burned brightly as the Falcon 9 soared.
“This is our fifth launch from Vandenberg just this year,” the first announcer said.
One minute into the launch, Falcon 9 was traveling faster than the speed of sound.
Around 2 minutes 30 seconds into the launch, the first and second stages separated, and the first stage returned to Earth while the second stage carried the Starlink satellites into orbit.
Viewers of the SpaceX telecast were treated to impressive views of the Earth in a split screen showing the first stage’s return and the second stage’s orbit.
Around 7 minutes into the launch, the first stage made its burns to slow its descent. Around 8 minutes, it slowed down to below the speed of sound.
The SpaceX.com broadcast gave a dramatic view of the first stage landing, right smack into the inner circle on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, around 8 minutes 50 seconds into the launch.
The crew in the control room cheered.
SpaceX has had a series of Starlink missions, and the satellites are providing internet access for 50 countries.