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Credit: SpaceX

Falcon 9 launches long delayed Starlink mission

After a series of delays caused by unfavourable weather conditions and technical issues, the Starlink 17 mission finally launched this morning atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The two-stage, medium-lift launch vehicle blasted off from the legendary Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, this morning, March 03, 2021 at 03:24 EST / 08:24 UTC.

Liftoff of Falcon 9! Credit: SpaceX
Liftoff of Falcon 9. Credit: SpaceX.

About two and a half minutes after the launch in Florida, the first stage of the rocket, booster B1049, separated from the second stage, which ignited its single Merlin rocket engine shortly after. B1049, which flew for its eight time, successfully touched down on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. After returning to Port Canaveral in a few days, B1049 will be checked for any damages and will most likely flight again for its ninth time in the near future.

Booster B1049 on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You. Credit: SpaceX
Booster B1049 on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You. Credit: SpaceX.

While the first stage landed back on Earth for later reuse, the second stage continued to power the batch of 60 Starlink communications satellites towards low Earth orbit. About 08 min 46 s after liftoff, the vacuum optimized Merlin rocket engine of the stage, shut down ahead of a 37 min long coast phase. At T+45 min 42 s. the engine briefly fired again, to push the rocket and the payload into its final transfer orbit. ~20 minutes later, the 60 Starlink satellites separated from the rocket and drifted away. Within the next couple of weeks, the satellites will unfold their solar panels and will raise their current orbits to an altitude of about 550 km.

Separation of the 60 Starlink satellites from the rocket's upper stage. Credit: SpaceX
Separation of the 60 Starlink satellites from the rocket’s upper stage. Credit: SpaceX

Both halves of the rocket’s payload fairing are reused. One of the halves already supported three Starlink missions, while the other one supported two.

About Starlink

Starlink is satellite constellation stationed in low Earth orbit and currently constructed by SpaceX. Starlink will provide high-speed internet access to every place on the planet. Therefore, SpaceX plans to launch up to 42,000 satellites into orbit, to achive global coverage capability. The Starlink 17 mission was originally the 17th batch of the operational version 1.0 satellites, however due to the delays the mission ended up beeing launched after the Starlink 18 and Starlink 19 batches.

If you want, you can rewatch the launch on SpaceX’ official YouTube account.


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