SpaceX launches the third Falcon 9 rocket in less than two days - Spaceflight Nov.

SpaceX launches the third Falcon 9 rocket in less than two days – Spaceflight Nov.

The Falcon 9 rocket will take off from ramp 40 at Cape Canaveral space station with the Globalstar FM15 satellite. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX launched the Globalstar communications satellite into orbit early Sunday from Cape Canaveral, performing the third flight of the Falcon 9 rocket in 36 hours, the fastest sequence of three commercial missions of any commercial launch company in history.

A backup spacecraft made more than a decade ago for Globalstar’s satellite phone and messaging network was housed inside the Falcon 9 rocket to take off from Cape Canaveral Space Station at 12:27:36 EDT (0427: 36 GMT).

The Falcon 9 fired from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral with 1.7 million pounds of thrust from nine Merlin main engines. The engines aimed their jets to steer the 229-foot (70-meter) rocket northeast of the Florida space coast, lining up with an orbital plane in Globalstar’s satellite fleet.

The rocket exceeded the speed of sound by about one minute and turned off its amplifier in about two and a half minutes of flight. A few seconds later, the booster fell and headed for the SpaceX recovery platform, or drone, parked in the Atlantic Ocean east of Charleston, South Carolina.

The first phase of the Falcon 9 – 15 stories high alone – landed on the drone ship about 10 minutes after takeoff, adding the ninth space trip to the booster diary.

The upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket fired its one Merlin engine three times, stepping through different orbits before finally reaching an altitude of about 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) to set up the Globalstar FM15 communications satellite almost two hours after the mission.

SpaceX said the upper tier had reached the mission’s target orbit, and officials celebrated the company’s third successful launch in less than two days.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is racing through the night sky after taking off from Cape Canaveral on Sunday at 12:27 EDT (04:27 GM). Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight New / Coldlife Photography

The triple mission Falcon 9 began Friday at 12:09 EDT (1609 GMT) with the launch of 53 Starlink Internet satellites from the Kennedy Space Center. That mission set a record with the 13th flight of the multiple booster Falcon, which returned to land on one of SpaceX’s drones in the Atlantic.

SpaceX teams at the Vandenberg Space Force base in California launched another Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday at 10:19 EDT (7:19 PDT; 14:19 GMT) with the German military radar reconnaissance satellite SARah 1. Falcon buster used on SARah 1 landed back Vandenberg for landing on land.

With a weekly mission for Globalstar, SpaceX recorded three Falcon 9 flights in 36 hours and 18 minutes, the shortest period between the three missions achieved by any commercial rocket company.

The launches marked a total of 158th, 159th and 160th Falcon 9 flights, as well as the 24th, 25th and 26th Falcon 9 missions this year, trying to get SpaceX to reach 26 launches throughout 2020. SpaceX has included a pace to exceeds the figure of 31 launches – its total number from last year – by the end of July.

Company officials aim for more than 50 launches of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy in 2022.

Some aspects of the weekly launch prompted observers to ask questions about other spacecraft that may have been deployed next to the Globalstar satellite.

SpaceX did not mention any other payload in its live webcast or on the Globalstar mission page on its website.

But the relatively light weight of the Globalstar satellite would usually leave enough fuel on the Falcon 9 amplifier to return to landing. Instead, Sunday’s mission included landing on SpaceX’s recovery platform at sea.

The webcast of the weekly launch provided by SpaceX did not show any views of the Globalstar satellite on board until an hour after the mission, which is an unusual practice for SpaceX’s commercial launches. When views from the built-in live camera began to be broadcast live, the Globalstar satellite was visibly mounted on a structure on the upper stage that seemed designed to accommodate other payloads.

If there were additional satellites during the launch on Sunday, they were already deployed from the Falcon 9 rocket when live camera views began to appear on SpaceX’s webcast.

In another unusual move, Globalstar did not admit any details about the launch of its backup satellite before Sunday’s mission. Last month, Globalstar issued a statement in its quarterly financial report stating that it plans to launch a backup spacecraft in the “near future”. At the time, the company did not identify a spare satellite launcher.

Sunday’s launch was the first for Globalstar Satellite since 2013 and adds capacity to the company’s commercial network, which provides voice and data connectivity for satellite phones, asset tracking and the Internet of Things app.

Globalstar operates a fleet of dozens of communications satellites in low Earth orbit. The company has not responded to multiple requests for details on the upcoming launch.

The company launched 60 first-generation Space Systems / Loral satellites on Delta 2 and Soyuz rockets from 1998 to 2007. Globalstar added 24 second-generation Thales Alenia Space satellites to four Soyuz rocket missions from 2010 to 2013..

Globalstar satellites provide data connectivity for users between 70 degrees north and south latitude, and the company’s second generation of spacecraft is designed for a lifespan of 15 years. The Globalstar satellites made by Thales are trapezoidal in shape and have 16 transponders in the C-bands and S-bands and 16 receivers in the L-bands and C-bands.

SpaceX’s patch for the Globalstar FM15 mission. Credit: SpaceX

Globalstar is a competitor in the satellite phone and data relay market with companies such as Iridium, Inmarsat and Orbcomm. Globalstar announced in February that it was buying 17 new satellites from an industry team led by MDA and Rocket Lab to extend the life of its constellation.

The company expects all 17 new satellites to be launched by the end of 2025. The launch service provider for the new satellites has not been announced.

The $ 327 million contract for 17 new satellites is primarily funded by an unnamed “potential buyer” for Globalstar services.

Globalstar did not reveal the organization that finances the new satellites, but the operator said last month that it had signed a contract with a “large, global client” to start implementing S-band services in the so-called “Band 53” frequency band. in the United States and other countries.

An unnamed buyer also paid most of the costs associated with launching the Globalstar FM15 satellite, Globalstar said in its financial submissions to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

SpaceX is planning two more Falcon 9 launches this month.

Another series of Starlink internet satellites should take off from the Kennedy Space Center next Saturday, June 25. And the Falcon 9 rocket is ready for launch on June 28 from ramp 40 on Cape Canaveral with the SES 22 television broadcast satellite.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.

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