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Transporter 1 Mission Brings Back Florida's Polar Express

Jan. 24th 10:00 AM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SCL-40 at Canaveral Space Force Station



Today's mission comes just four days after the last launch, that of the Starlink L16 mission which delivered the first batch of sixty Starlink satellites into orbit. It also comes as the third of four launches SpaceX has scheduled for January, which if the company is able to get them all off the ground then it'll be the first month they've ever achieved four launches. Due to unfavorable weather conditions the launch was scrubbed yesterday just a few moments before the target launch time. Today after liftoff Transporter 1 did not head in the usual rocket heading, Easterly, but instead flew down the Florida coast leading it into a polar orbit. We've seen this launch just once before in recent times when the SOACOM-1B mission launched in August of last year. Until then it had been an avoided flight paths since the 1960s as it can be extremely dangerous if debris were to fall over the coast or surrounding island countries. Just after liftoff the Falcon 9 performed a dog leg maneuver to bring a nice cushion of space off the coast before heading almost direct South sailing between Florida and Cuba. The SpaceX fleet of boats including the drone ship OCISLY (Of Course I Still Love You) were positioned between the U.S. mainland and the isle of Cuba when the first stage touched down on the deck of the drone ship, completing it's fifth flight and the twenty-third consecutive landing of a Falcon 9 (another new record for the company).


The booster, 1058 is perhaps the most notable of all Falcon 9 boosters as it still holds a giant NASA "Worm" logo down one side of it's core. It's the only one to do so as it's debut flight was that of DM-2, the mission which returned crewed space flight to American soil. Since astronauts Bob, and Doug lifted off it has seen three flights since. The first being a launch of a South Korean satellite on the ANASIS-II mission. Second came Starlink L12 and lastly was the numerous record setting flight of the upgraded Cargo Dragon capsule on CRS-21. Wednesday's mission, that of Starlink L16 saw booster 1051 set the record for most flights of a Falcon 9 first stage with eight successful launches and landings, and the quickest to date turn around time of a booster between flights at just thirty-eight days. With only one month and fifteen day's between the last flights of booster 1058 we are seeing SpaceX become more and more efficient with the minor booster refurbishments needed in order for the goal of ten flights per booster before major refurbishment will be needed. Currently the battle is between two boosters, 1051 and 1049 as until Starlink L16 they were both tied at seven flights. Today shows that it could really be any boosters game though as which booster will be first to make those ten flights.



This flight is part of SpaceX's ride share program. A program the company developed to help smaller companies get their payloads to orbit for a cheaper price than once was available, about one million dollars per ride up to 200kg. This unique program offered by SpaceX is in part due to the reusability of their hardware. Every first stage, and fairing half that can be recovered and reused is more money kept in the bank for the company and helps it's ability to lower flight costs. Latest reports show there being a record number of one-hundred-forty-three satellites on board, including ten Starlink satellites. Those of course belonging to SpaceX's Starlink program, Elon Musk's' goal of bringing highspeed internet across the globe. The company has been lobbying for weeks to the FCC to get the licensing required to raise the satellites into the 560 kilometer orbit. On January 8th of this year the FCC did give permission and when a few government satellites were damaged in processing the company found this the perfect ride to get their equipment started in the polar orbit.

There are many other exciting payloads being deployed today as well. Including the first time a Falcon 9 has flown with a third stage. The SHERPA-FX is a satellite dispenser carrying eighteen payloads and was designed by Spaceflight to deploy secondary payloads without having other payloads interfere with communications. Although this SHERPA does not have any on board propulsion, it is only one of several models being designed where many will have a monopropellent to boost payloads into different orbits. We also have forty-eight SuperDove sats along for the ride. These being part of Planets SkySat constellation. The upgraded Dove offers higher resolution and cameras to provide more accurate surface reflection values for the company while they continue to better monitor agriculture in hopes of leading to new machine learning applications. Other satellites on Transporter-1 include UVSQ-SAT, Hugo, ADELIS-SAMSON, PULSE, Landmapper, Kepler GEN1, GNOMES-2, Capella Whitney, InOrbit Now, LINCS, and XR-1.



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