Science

SpaceX Falcon 9 finally lifts off at 6:17 PST deploying three satellites at 515 Km altitude

SpaceX Falcon 9 finally lifts off at 6:17 PST deploying three satellites at 515 Km altitude

Finally, the Falcon 9 rocket took off on today[Feb 22] at 9:17 a.m. ET (6:17 PST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base with one special payload as touted and two SpaceX broadband satellites. Falcon 9 launch was delayed twice in last four days due to final checks up on payload fairing which delayed the launch from Feb 18 to Feb 21 and then, the wind shear that would have caused the rocket suffer 2% payload exceedance. Finally, Elon Musk decided to pull off the launch on February 22 during pre-dawn while the rocket deploying the second stage was clearly seen from the Californian coast. The Falcon 9 used the same first stage that was used in August 2017 to launch Taiwanese FormoSat-5 satellite.

PAZ Satellite
PAZ Satellite

Soon after the launch, the rocket geared up to Max-Q which is the maximum dynamic pressure on the rocket within few minutes and then, finally hitting the maximum speed of around 27,669 km/h. The PAZ satellite was successfully deployed at the low-earth orbit at the altitude of 515 Km within 12 minutes of its launch. PAZ satellite is developed by Hisdesat, a Spanish company along with the Spanish Government and will be used to obtain data along with photos with the resolution of 25 cm per pixel.

The other two satellites belong to SpaceX’s Starlink constellation that was deployed. SpaceX launched Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b that will provide reliable and ultrafast internet broadband to users worldwide once it is successful and the entire constellation is sent. Elon Musk tweeted “Today’s Falcon Launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband. If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served” prior to Feb 21 scheduled launch. Tom Praderio, a SpaceX firmware engineer stated that once these satellites gather required details, there will be a considerable amount of work to be done in designing and deployment of the constellation to beam internet down to the customers on the ground.

Elon Musk tweeted the moment when the two satellites now named as Tintin A & B in the low-earth orbit at approximately 515 km altitude on Twitter. He added that the two satellites will start beaming Internet in less than 22 hours near LA. SpaceX has obtained the clearance from FCC where the chairman Ajit Pai commemorated the event which received criticism yet it passed without any issues. FCC listed that there are other companies that are trying to do something similar to SpaceX.

Broadband Satellite
Broadband Satellite

Feb 22 launch of Falcon 9 marks the fourth launch of SpaceX in 2018 and the company aims to achieve the target of 24 in coming months. In order to drive the cost lower than usual expenditure in launching satellites, SpaceX used the first stage recovered in August 2017 after a Taiwanese satellite was launched. Although SpaceX has already attempted self-landing rockets, the company decided not to recover the boosters of Falcon 9 since it will be unveiling next generation of boosters in this summer. The separated payload fairings were found few meters away from the drone-ship named “Mr. Steven”, however, the fairing was intact and no physical damage was found when recover.

If successful, SpaceX will launch more than 12,000 satellites to form a constellation in the low-earth orbit that will beam down the internet to the ground in coming years. According to SpaceX, this will be a major source of revenue for the private space agency.
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