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Starlink, but not just any other

September 4 at 8:30 pm E.T. from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

In lieu of NASA being unable to get SLS off the pad yesterday, SpaceX at least gave any tourists still hanging around Titusville another launch to watch this evening as the Starlink 4-20 mission launched into the night sky a short time after sunset hit the space coast. This Starlink though is a little different from the rest we’ve had this year as it’s carrying another payload along with the fifty-one Starlink satellites. Tonight’s rideshare, the Varuna-TDM satellite will be going into a Low Earth orbit on this, fortieth Starlink launch of the year.

Varuna-TDM is short for Varuna Technology Demonstration Mission and is a commercial program by Boeing that intends to test V-band communications for a proposed constellation of one-hundred-forty-seven non-geostationary broadband satellites. In orbit Varuna will attempt to confirm the assumptions of the propagation characteristics of the V-band spectrum which allows manufacturers of the terminal equipment and other hardware that is compatible with Boeing’s V-band fixed satellite service to demonstrate the abilities of their design. The satellite will also provide prospective users of Boeings broadband communications services the opportunity to evaluate the performance of V-band communication links for specific applications.

Falcon 9 B1052 has now flown seven time total for the SpaceX launching fleet and five times now as a dedicated Falcon 9. Its first two flights were as a side booster for the Falcon Heavy missions, Arabsat-6A, and STP-2. It then flew about two years later for the COSMO-SkyMed mission before the KPLO and two Starlink missions before tonight’s launch. The last being just thirty-one days ago, making this a prime vehicle for SpaceX this year.

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