SpaceX launched a new advanced batch of military satellites into orbit for the US Space Force on Saturday (September 2) after a two-day delay and tied its own rate of flight record for the same time.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 13 spacecraft for the Space Force’s Space Development Agency (SDA) lifted off into the hazy morning sky over Vandenberg Space Force Base in California Saturday at 10:26 a.m. EDT (1426 GMT; 7:26 a.m. EST). local california). With the first stage booster returning to Vandenberg to continue its descent. This was the thirteenth flight of the missile.
“With this launch, this marks SpaceX’s 61st launch of 2023, matching last year’s annual record with four months left before the end of this year,” Zachary Lubin, SpaceX avionics reliability engineer, said during the live commentary.
Lubin said SpaceX initially attempted to launch the Tranche 0 mission on Aug. 31, but it was delayed due to an unexpected response from one of the nine engines in the Falcon 9 first stage. The second attempt on Sept. 1 was canceled about 12 minutes before it was due, Lubin said. Take off due to a valve problem in the ground equipment.
Related: 8 ways SpaceX has changed spaceflight
Saturday’s launch marked SpaceX’s second launch in support of the Deployed Fighter Space Engineering (PWSA), a “new network of layered low-Earth orbit satellites and supporting elements that will provide global military communications, warning, tracking and missile warning capabilities,” it wrote. SpaceX in a Description of the task.
PWSA’s first mission took place in early April, when a Falcon 9 rocket launched 10 satellites from Vandenberg.
These first two missions are dedicated to building Tranche 0, a demonstration constellation that will consist of 28 satellites. According to Space News. Most are communications vehicles, but some are designed to detect missiles.
As its name suggests, Tranche 0 is just the beginning of PWSA.
“Under the plan, the Space Force would have hundreds of small satellites, with new satellites launched every few years to increase flexibility and capabilities in orbit.” She wrote for the Air Force and Space Journal in late March.
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 first stage will return for landing at Vandenberg about 7.5 minutes after launch today. This was the 13th launch and landing of this particular booster, Lubin said, and the 222nd overall recovery of an Orbital-class rocket by SpaceX. He added that this was also the company’s 260th launch overall.
It is not clear when the satellites will be deployed. SpaceX did not provide any information about this achievement. This is not surprising. Details are often scarce on national security missions.
At the request of the Space Development Agency, SpaceX has now shown any live video views from the Falcon 9 upper stage during launch on Saturday, and ended its online broadcast shortly after the rocket’s first stage touchdown.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. EST to reflect the successful launch of the second Tranche 0 mission by SpaceX.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”