After a few weather-related delays, the Falcon 9 successfully lifted off at 2:19 a.m. ET (06:19 UTC) and descended to the southeast to deliver 22 second-generation Starlink satellites, also known as Starlink V2 mini-satellites.
These 22 V2 satellites deployed just over an hour after launch at an orbital inclination of 43° as part of Group 6-3. These V2 satellites are larger than the V1.5 satellites, with the V1.5 satellites weighing approximately 306 kg (675 lb) and the small V2 satellites weighing 800 kg (1,800 lb).
Because of this difference in weight, the Falcon 9 can only accommodate 22 of these satellites, but each offers much higher capabilities than its predecessors. V2 mini Starlinks can use at least four times more bandwidth than V1.5 per satellite and feature better maneuverability in orbit thanks to new Argonne Hall engines.
The Falcon 9 that completed this mission was B1076 on its fifth flight, previously supporting CRS-26, OneWeb #16, Starlink 6-1 and Intelsat 40E/TEMPO. About eight and a half minutes after launch, the B1076 bomber touched down with the “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone.
This booster likely holds the record for the largest mass sent into orbit for a Falcon 9 at 17.6 metric tons and is still capable of a successful drone landing. Once SpaceX returns this booster to Port Canaveral, it will be brought to Hangar X at Kennedy Space Center, where it will be converted to the Falcon Heavy side booster for launch of EchoStar 24, currently scheduled for August of this year. The booster wasn’t the only proven device on this launch—the fairing halves were on their eighth voyage overall and will be hauled out of the ocean by the rescue ship “Doug.”
SpaceX also attempted a Falcon 9 launch with an Iridium OneWeb rideshare payload from Vandenberg Space Force Base this morning. However, the T-55 seconds countdown was canceled. It is currently unknown what the problem was, but if possible, SpaceX will try again tomorrow around the same time, 6:15 a.m. Pacific Time (13:15 UTC).
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”