9x Recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 Lifts off with Starlink Satellites Starting Busy December Boom of Blastoffs

SpaceX Falcon 9 Lifts off 9th time with Starlink Satellites Starting Busy December Boom of Blastoffs
Post Sunset Streak to Orbit! Spectacular SpaceX Falcon9 liftoff delivers 48 Starlink internet satellites and 2 BlackSky earth imaging geospatial intelligence smallsats to orbit – in this long duration single image exposure showing the rocket arc over on the way to LEO after liftoff at 6:12 p.m. EST Dec. 2, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Scene bracketed by 2 ULA launch pads: 41 (l) launching Atlas V and STP-3 Dec 5 and 37 (r). As the author watches and photographs below the arc! Calm Cape waters enabled great water reflections from facilities and launch pads. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/SpaceUpClose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, FL – Following a late, same day confirmation a 9x recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off with a jam packed nose cone loaded with 4 dozen upgraded Starlink internet satellites and two Black Sky earth imaging observation satellites just past sunset at dinnertime Thursday evening, Dec. 2 from Florida’s Space Coast – starting an extraordinarily  busy December boom of five blastoffs closing out the year.

And SpaceX nailed the 1st stage booster landing too!

Unlike recent Sunshine State launches obscured by clouds and fog this reused Falcon 9 launch put on a spectacular sky show under picture perfect weather conditions into a cloud-free twilight night sky delighting spectators with a multi-minute unobstructed view of another amazing SpaceX launch

9x flown SpaceX Falcon9 carrying payload of 48 Starlink internet satellites and 2 BlackSky optical Earth imaging geospatial intelligence smallsats lifts off at 6:12 p.m. EST Dec. 2, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Calm Cape waters enabled great water reflections. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/SpaceUpClose.com

Blastoff of the ‘flight-proven’ SpaceX Falcon 9 on the Starlink 4-3 mission took place right on time exactly at 6:12 p.m. EST (2312 GMT) from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida during an instantaneous launch window.

The 229 foot tall (70 meters) Falcon 9 lifted off with 1.7 million pounds of thrust generated by 9 Merlin main engines fueled by RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants.

9x flown SpaceX Falcon9 carrying payload of 48 Starlink internet satellites and 2 BlackSky optical Earth imaging geospatial intelligence smallsats lifts off on Starlink 4-3 mission at 6:12 p.m. EST Dec. 2, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Calm Cape waters enabled great water reflections. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/SpaceUpClose.com

Falcon 9 flew away and aloft on a northeasterly trajectory at an inclination of 53.2 degress into the second Starlink orbital shell

The payload comprised 48 upgraded Starlink internet communications satellites manufactured by SpaceX in their Redmond, Washington production facility – enlarging the existing and burgeoning broadband constellation to nearly 1900 launched thus far.

Also on board were two geospatial intelligence Earth imaging observation satellites from Black Sky

BlackSky satellites produced at LeoStella. Credit: BlackSky

 

The Black Sky satellites weigh approximately 121 pounds (55 kilograms) each and increase the current on orbit constellation to 10 – after two were launched recently by Rocket lab on Nov. 17.

Two more are launching soon on another Rocket Lab launch to raise the constellation to an even dozen.

Here’s what Black Sky imaging is capable of – showing Falcon 9 prelaunch on pad 40:

Thursday’s launch was the 2nd for the upgraded Starlink following the 4-1 mission with 53 internet sats launched on Nov. 13 with lifted off through dense fog – see our story and photos.

Enjoy our Starlink 4-3 mission pre-launch and launch photos from the Space UpClose team of Ken Kremer and Jean Wright.

Blastoff of SpaceX Falcon9 on Starlink 4-3 mission with 48 internet satellites and 2 BlackSky imaging smallsats at 6:12 p.m. EST Dec. 2, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Credit: Jean Wright/SpaceUpClose.com

This brings the total number of SpaceX Falcon 9 launches this year to 27.

The 27th Falcon 9 launch in 2021 marked a new record – breaking the prior record of 26 set in 2020

With several more launches on the horizon before years end from both US coasts – that record is certain to grow!

Three more Falcon 9 launches are planned from Florida this month starting with NASA’s IXPE X-Ray science mission on Dec. 9, Turksat 5B on Dec. 18 and NASA’s CRS-24 resupply mission to the ISS set for Dec. 21.

The second stage fired for some six minutes and then coasted about another hour to inject initially the Black Skt satellites at 1 hour 3 minutes and 1 hour 6 minutes respectively followed by the Starlinks at 1 hour 29 minutes placing them  into their preliminary orbit.

The deployments occurred while the stage was flying outside the range of SpaceX ground stations

After deploying their solar panels to charge the batteries via solar power they will rise over time as krypton ion thrusters fire to raise them to about an altitude about 341-mile-high (550-kilometer), into a 53-degree inclination orbit

The 2 Black Sky satellites were deployed as planned:

The 48 Starlinks were all deployed as planned at about T + 1 hour 29 minutes, 28 seconds:

 

 

SpaceX also successfully nailed the landing of the Falcon 9 first stage booster designated as B1060 – now successfully completing its 9th trip to space and back and setting up a 10th launch at some point in the not too distant future.

Falcon 9 first stage B1060 previously launched eight times: first on GPS III-3 for the U.S. Space Force, followed by Turksat 5A, Transporter-2, and five Starlink missions.

This brings the total number of SpaceX launches this year to 27 – with several more on the horizon before years end from both US coasts.

Post Sunset Fisheye Streak to Orbit! Spectacular SpaceX Falcon9 liftoff delivers 48 Starlink internet satellites and 2 BlackSky earth imaging geospatial intelligence smallsats to orbit – in this long duration single image fisheye lens exposure showing the rocket arc over on the way to LEO after liftoff at 6:12 p.m. EST Dec. 2, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Scene bracketed by media photos and car (l) and 2 ULA launch pads: 41 (c) launching Atlas V and STP-3 Dec 5 and 37 (r). Calm Cape waters enabled great water reflections from facilities and launch pads. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/SpaceUpClose.com

The first and second stages separated approximately two-and-a-half minutes into flight.

The first stage then began its maneuvers for a propulsive soft landing using the center engine.

Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG) droneship, which was prepositioned in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Carolinas over 400 miles (650 km) downrange from the Cape launch site.

 

This new batch of Starlink satellites has been upgraded with laser-based systems to enable better communicate with each other in orbit and be less ground dependent.

Overall the Starlink 4-3 mission was the 32nd Falcon 9 launch dedicated to carrying Starlink satellites to orbit for their high speed, low latency, low cost global broadband internet network service.

Altogether this brings the total number of Starlink satellites launched to orbit to 1,892 in the past two and a half years.

The first stage B1060 successfully soft-landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG)) drone ship as planned some eight and a half minutes after liftoff – making 89 successful booster landings overall

“The Falcon has landed,” SpaceX webcast announcer said on the live broadcast.

“You can hear the cheer and applause and there’s the visual; this first stage booster has landed a total of nine times.”

“Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship,” SpaceX tweeted.

The launch was delayed a day from Wednesday, Dec. 1 for unknown reasons.

 

SpaceX only completed the static fire test at 630 p.m. Wednesday.  It had been planned for Monday evening initially.

Liftoff video from SpaceX:

Ken’s prelaunch commentary and photos of the Falcon 9 raised at pad 40 were featured on WFTV ABC 9 Orlando TV News

Dr. Ken Kremer of Space UpClose interviewed on WFTV ABC 9 Orlando about SpaceX Starlink launch on Dec. 2, 2021 and December’s upcoming busy manifest of 5 rocket launches from Florida Space Coast. Screenshot: WFTV ABC/Space UpClose

 

Prelaunch view 9x flown SpaceX Falcon9 featured on WFTV ABCX 9 Orlando set to launch payload of 48 Starlink internet satellites and 2 BlackSky optical Earth imaging geospatial intelligence smallsats on Starlink 4-3 mission at 6:12 p.m. EST Dec. 2, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Screenshot Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/SpaceUpClose.com

 

Ken is onsite at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for the Starlink mission launch campaign

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about SpaceX  Starlink , SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragons, Artemis, SLS, Orion and NASA missions, DART,  Lucy Asteroid mission, Blue Origin and Space Tourism, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2 & 3, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions 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.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

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Artwork of Black Sky satellites in orbit

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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. 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.

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