For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Space enthusiasts were treated to a beautiful breakfast time blastoff with bountiful water reflections amounting to what looked like two Falcon 9s launching simultaneously in opposite directions from many locations ringing the Florida Space Coast for Thursday’s weather delayed liftoff of a ‘flight-proven’ Falcon on Sept. 3 that was originally supposed to open a historic double header of recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 1st stage launches on Sunday, Aug, 30 – carrying the next batch of Starlink internet relay satellites to orbit.
Thus overall Thursday’s liftoff was the second Falcon 9 to rocket away in 4 days!
Approximately eight minutes later the Falcon 9’s first stage booster B1060.2 on its second flight relit a subset of its engines and soft landed on the ocean going “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship platform – already waiting in the Atlantic Ocean.
Although the Space Coast region was replete with haze the early morning sun cast just the right rays to create the appearance of dual Falcon’s lifting off concurrently for real to space and an illusionary inner Earth.
Nine Merlin 1D engines ignited at the appointed time and the 1x recycled Falcon 9 soared to space Thursday, September 3 at 8:46 a.m. EDT (1246 GMT) for launch of SpaceX’s twelfth Starlink mission carrying 60 Starlink broadband satellites to low earth orbit from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Starlink mission marked the 101st SpaceX launch, the 93rd Falcon 9 and the 16th overall in 2020.
The stunning liftoff was a welcome relief from the horrendous thunderstorms, lightning strikes and drenching downpours (see my pad photo below) that have inundated the Space Coast for several weeks – and that also cancelled and delayed multiple rocket launches lately as well as our media remote camera setups, and disappointed many travelers hoping to see a launch.
The ever expanding Starlink constellation now numbers approximately 713 refrigerator sized broadband internet relay satellites launched to orbit and aimed at serving rural and underserved areas across the globe – where service is “unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.”
There were no rideshare payloads on this flight – thus the full complement of 60 Starlinks was stowed aboard as payload and encapsulated inside the nose cone.
Enjoy our photos of the Falcon 9 launch and prelaunch from Launch Complex-39A taken by the Space UpClose team of Ken Kremer and Jean Wright.
Check back as the gallery grows.
The prior Falcon 9 on Aug. 30 successfully launched the commercial Saocom 1B radar imaging satellite mission to polar orbit for Argentina.
Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission in June 2020.
In the minutes before the Falcon 9 liftoff we observed vigorous venting of liquid oxygen (LOX) from the 2nd stage at our launch viewing location at the KSC LC-39 press site.
Then at the appointed moment in the instantaneous launch window all 9 Merlin 1D first stage engines ignited to generate approx. 1.7 million pounds of thrust fueled by LOX and RP-1 propellants.
Fiery red-orange flames spewed from the Merlin engines and Falcon 9 vaulted off pad 39A.
See our daylight streak shot of the first 30 seconds in flight with voluminous exhaust at the pad.
Moments later we heard the engines rumbling thunder grow louder and louder as the 23 story tall Falcon 9 cleared the tower –and eventually arced over in an northeasterly direction following the curvature of the Earth to orbit.
The Falcon 9 1st stage separated as planned two and a half minutes into flight.
The 15 story tall stage then carried out a precision guided propulsive descent by reigniting a subset of the Merlin’s and successfully landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship for the second time about eight and a half minutes after liftoff.
“Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship,” SpaceX tweeted.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/vgB0dnTWaP
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
Droneship OCISLY was already waiting at its stationing position some 400 mi (640 km) north east of KSC off the coast of the Carolina’s with a football field sized platform.
The Starlink satellites were deployed approximately 14 minutes after liftoff to an initial orbit about 130 miles (210 km) and 210 miles (340 km) above Earth – and on-target inclined about 53 degrees to the equator.
“Deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed,” SpaceX tweeted with this video replay:
Deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/DdBxIOdOg1
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
SpaceX says you can sign up to receive updates on Starlink news and service availability in your area. Please visit starlink.com.
The Starlink team is “still in the beginning stages of our global space-based Internet constellation” said Kate Tice, a SpaceX engineer during the company’s live launch webcast Thursday.
“We are well into our first phase of testing with our private beta program with plans to roll out a public beta later this year,” Tice said.
“Falcon 9 launches 60 Starlink satellites to orbit – Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable → starlink.com”
Falcon 9 launches 60 Starlink satellites to orbit – Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable → https://t.co/5suNxFMwGH pic.twitter.com/65vOcTSmoK
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
SpaceX has also dispatched its fleet of payload fairing catcher boats GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief to try and catch and retrieve both nose cone halves from the mission.
The two stage Falcon 9 rocket stands 229 feet (70 meters) tall.
My prelaunch photos from pad 39A were featured at WKMG CBS 6 TV News Orlando
Watch my Aug. 25 commentary at WKMG CBS 6 TV News Orlando as the retraction work was completed on the last Starlink and talking about 3 upcoming launches slated for this past weekend.
Video Caption: It’s going to be a busy thee days on the Space Coast with three rocket launches scheduled for a history-making line up but to make this triple-header happen, the weather and rocketry must align. James Sparvero/CBS 6
Watch my Aug. 14 guest host and Aug 3 interview appearances at ‘Stay Curious’ show at the American Space Museum about successful Mars Perseverance launch, successful splashdown SpaceX Crew Dragon on Demo-2 1st commercial mission as well as upcoming Crew-1, Artemis Moon mission, SpaceX Starlink and more:
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events