June 13th Starlink Launch
5:21 AM EST from SLC-40 at Canaveral Air Force station atop a Falcon 9 rocket
SpaceX has done it again, launching even 58 more of their Starlink satellites into orbit, making the total operation satellites 538. This comes just ten days after their last launch. Along for the ride was 3 of Planet's Skysats, marking the first launch of the company's ride share program. The SmallSat Rideshare Program offers small satellite operators the chance to book a ride aboard an upcoming SpaceX launch with a some what "on demand" manner.
This launch brings the company one step closer to bringing their internet service to it's initial testing phase, as recently SpaceX has added on their site a place for possible consumers to sign up for the ability to possibly test out the service across the U.S., and Canada. It also has significance because these Starlinks carry a new modification designed to make them more friendly to the skies for astronomers. Due to their size and relatively low orbit they fly, Starlink has been criticized by scientists because the have the potential to distract with their lights as they pass overhead any one trying to observe the stars. The previous launch, one satellite equipped with a deployable sun visor created to block reflections of light off their antenna. It appears to have worked well as all 58 launched this time are equipped with the sun visors.
Also in line with their previous missions, a SpaceX launch is again associated with history in the making, though this time not entirely their making. The 45th Space Wing, for the first time had an all female crew on their launch weather team. Major Emily Graves, Captain nancy Zimmerman, Airman first class Hannah Mulcahey, Alrena Moses, Melody Lovin, and Jessica Williams made up the six person team. Zimmerman had this to say, "It's a testament to how far we've come, in the space industry and in the Air Force."
These woman had the critical job in supporting the launch as they decided whether the weather conditions near Florida's space coast was clear for lift off. The Coast often has volatile weather, and a number of factors must be considered for each launch before the GO or NO GO decision can be made.
Carrying the payload to space this launch was first stage booster 1059, now earning it's .3 now successfully launching to orbit and landing back on Earth three times. The most flown first stage booster is five times, and SpaceX hopes to be able to use each first stage booster 10 times. 1059.3 has now landed twice on the drone ship " Of Course I Still Love You" and once at LZ-1 at Canaveral Air Force station during the CRS-20 mission, which marked the 50th overall successful landing of a SpaceX first stage booster.
Three days after the landing on the drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, the first stage booster made it's way into port where SpaceX set another record in speed of taking a booster off the ship and transporting back to be refurbished for further use. About ten hours after docking it was seen going horizontal onto the transporter to be taken away. This includes lifting the booster off the barge with a crane and retracting each of the four legs used for landing.
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