SpaceX successfully completed the 14th Starlink v1.0 launch less than a year after commencing operational flights and simultaneously tied its own world record for rotating orbiting class missiles.
Following the unusual 48-hour delay, SpaceX says it used to check once again that a slight problem with the Falcon 9’s second stage camera was not indicative of deeper faults, the rocket finally took off at 11:31 a.m. EST ( 15:31 UTC) from an LC-40 pillow at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As usual, 60 Starlink v1.0 satellites – weighing about 16 metric tons (~ 35,000 lb) – were loaded inside the Falcon 9’s consumable second-stage payload fairing.
Two and a half minutes after takeoff, the Falcon 9 Booster B1060 shut down nine Merlin 1D engines and disconnected from the second stage, and immediately flipped itself to counter those engines toward the landing target. The second stage ignited the Merlin Vacuum (MVac) engine seconds later, igniting toward an initial low-orbit parking lot for six minutes. Thirty seconds before the second engine (SECO-1) blackout, the B1060 ignited its Merlin 1D central engine and slowed itself to a target point aboard a drone ship Just Read The Instructions – pegging SpaceX’s world record for an orbital-class missile transformation.
For reusable missiles, this shift register indicates the time between two orbital-class launches with the same vehicle – in this case, the Falcon 9 Booster B1060. The SpaceX rocket successfully launched two separate Starlink missions – Starlink-11 and Starlink-14 – only 51 days, 2 hours and 45 minutes, losing Falcon 9 Booster B1058’s record by 37 minutes.
Had SpaceX managed to avoid three days of delay, Starlink-14 would have seen the B1060 break the B1058 record with three days. Ultimately, the competition is almost entirely symbolic, given that SpaceX has an effective monopoly on reusable orbital launch capabilities and will almost inevitably continue to beat its records as it grows to become the world’s number one expert in the field of reusable rockets.
The Starlink-14 launch and landing of the B1060 marks the 63rd time that SpaceX has successfully landed a Falcon missile, in addition to the 55th orbital launch to include a successful booster landing and the 43rd mission to use an in-flight stabilizer missile. Including Falcon 1 and Falcon Heavy, Starlink-14 has also been a successful launch of SpaceX # 100 since the company’s first success in September 2008.
If all of the 60 Starlink-14 satellites were able to boost to their final orbits, SpaceX would soon have a constellation of more than 800 communications satellites in operation – perhaps only three launches 1,000 satellites away. Typically with an average increase of 6 km (3.7 mi) in orbital altitude each day, each Starlink group of satellites takes approximately 30-60 days to reach their operational orbits and rejoin the rest of the fleet. SpaceX has already indicated that the first Starlink public beta tests will start appearing once the Starlink-13 satellites are operational – a milestone it will likely cross in November.