SpaceX is on a roll with finishing up the test flight, and now they are back at it again. SpaceX launched dozens of Starlink internet satellites and two small Earth-imaging satellites into orbit on 7th August 2020.
The Falcon 9 rocket carried 57 SpaceX Starlink satellites and two BlackSky Global Earth-observation satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and the rocket landed on “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean.
This mission marks SpaceX’s 12th mission for 2020. The 57 satellites join other Starlink satellites as a part of SpaceX’s Starlink mega constellation. SpaceX is working towards making the service available to everyone, and as such has gained approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
Satellites for BlackSky hitched a ride with the Starlink, and this was arranged by Spaceflight.
There is a point of divergence for the recently launched Starlink satellites and that would be a visor used to reduce its brightness. SpaceX has named it conveniently a sunshade which helps to prevent sunlight from reflecting off the shiniest parts of the satellites.
SpaceX is also taking precautions so that it does not come in conflict with night sky observations.
The first stage Falcon 9 completed its 5 missions with this launch. Previously, it launched the Demo-1 mission in 2019, which sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station; a trio of Earth-observing satellites for Canada; and two Starlink missions this year. Also, it is the third Falcon 9 booster to launch five times, and the second to launch and land five times.
The company has managed to recover two different boosters five times. As for Falcon 9’s safe landing, the drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean is one of the two vessels that SpaceX uses to catch its returning boosters. Once they are recovered, they are transported back to SpaceX facilities.
Time and again SpaceX has emphasized that its boosters have the ability to fly as many as 10 times with minor refurbishments, and as many as 100 times before retirement. This certainly guarantees that Elon Musk’s company can now launch satellites more frequently. SpaceX uses its twin fairing catchers, GO Ms. Tree and GO Miss Chief; however, a successful catch depends on other variables as well, including the weather.
If the fairings fail to do their job, the boats are used as backups. The boosters and fairings are reused so long as they come back intact and with minimum damage. For its recent launch, they failed to catch the fairings. The mission conducted on 7th August also marks the third attempt to give SpaceX’s mission a gentle nudge.