SpaceX launched a massive new commercial communications satellite into orbit late Saturday and also set a new launch record for its Falcon 9 rocket.
Falcon 9 was launched into orbit from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying 34 SpaceX. Starlink internet satellites and BlueWalker 3, a prototype satellite built by AST SpaceMobile and billed as the largest commercial communications array ever to fly in space. Departure was at 21:20 EDT (0120 GMT) on Saturday night, September 10. Falcon 9 making some booster Space X History when you return to Earth.
Related: SpaceX’s Starlink mega constellation kicks off with photos
“This is the 14th record-setting landing for this booster,” said Jesse Anderson, SpaceX production engineering manager. live commentary (opens in new tab).
The mission also set several other records.
This was SpaceX’s first five engine burning missions to distribute payloads in orbit, as well as the company’s heaviest rideshare payload ever. (blue hiker 3 It weighs 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms), Anderson said.)
SpaceX CEO “One of our most complex missions” elon musk wrote about the flight from twitter (opens in new tab).
Meet BlueWalker 3 from AST SpaceMobile
While SpaceX’s primary goal for Saturday’s launch is to add 34 new Starlinks satellites AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite stood out for both its size and its ambitious mission relative to the growing constellation in orbit.
Measuring 693 square feet (64 square meters) when fully deployed, the satellite is the largest commercial antenna array ever launched into space. Its mission: to test new technology designed to provide direct global cell phone service to users from space. The goal is to fill coverage gaps and provide uninterrupted high-speed phone and data service in underserved areas.
“The reason our satellite is big is because to communicate with a low-power, low-internal-power phone, you need a very powerful large antenna on one side, and it’s a critical part of our infrastructure. Scott Wisniewski, Chief Strategy Officer at AST SpaceMobile, told Space.com “We think this is really important for communicating directly with regular handsets without replacing the handset and putting an extra burden on the user.”
Wisniewski said it would take several weeks for AST SpaceMobile to order BlueWalker 3 to deploy its spring antenna. During this time, the company will perform a series of health checks to make sure the satellite is in good condition, he added.
AST SpaceMobile has partnered with 25 cellular service providers, 10 of which will participate in the tumultuous six-month BlueWalker 3 journey the company plans to test its capabilities on six continents around the world. These partners include providers such as Vodafone, Rakuten Mobile and Orange, and potential access to 1.8 million phone users, Wisniewski said. Earlier this summer, the company FCC license to test BlueWalker 3’s service in Texas and Hawaii in the United States.
To provide full coverage, AST SpaceMobile will need multiple satellites. “This is kind of the culmination of our company’s R&D phase before continuing to produce satellites next year,” Wisniewski said. Said.
The company plans to track BlueWalker 3 with five operational satellites in 2023. Ultimately, he aims to build a constellation of at least 100 giant satellites to provide full coverage.
AST SpaceMobile is not alone in its quest for cell phone coverage from space. The company Lynk Global is working on a similar project, and Elon Musk announced it last month. SpaceX collaborates with T-Mobile Providing cellular service with Starlink satellites.
Because of their size, AST SpaceMobile’s satellites are visible to skywatchers from the ground, and some astronomers have criticized the plan for its potential impact on telescope observations from the ground. New Scientist report (opens in new tab). If this complaint sounds familiar, it’s because bound to SpaceX’s own Starlink constellation when that company started releasing dozens of them at a time.
A rocket reuse record as Starlink grows
About 8.5 minutes after launching the BlueWalker 3 and Starlink satellites, the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has returned to Earth for a definitive landing on the company’s A Shortfall Of Gravitas drone carrier in the Atlantic Ocean. The landing set a new record for the number of launches of a Falcon 9 booster.
Ahead of Saturday’s flight, the Falcon 9 stage launches eight different Starlink missions alongside SpaceX’s first astronaut test flight for NASA (called Demo-2) in May 2020; ANASIS-2 satellite for South Korea in July 2020; The uncrewed CRS-21 cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA in December 2020, as well as the Transporter 1 and Transporter 3 vehicle-sharing missions in January 2021 and January 2022, respectively.
When? Elon Musk introduces Falcon 9 Block 5 In 2018, the booster said SpaceX’s goal was to fly them at least 10 times. With each subsequent flight, the company pushed the limits for rocket reusability as part of an effort to reduce the cost of space flight.
Similarly, SpaceX has continued to grow the size of the Starlink constellation and in recent years the number of countries and their coverage. in august, Royal Caribbean announced (opens in new tab) It will use Starlink on all cruise ships by 2023, and SpaceX already offers services for RVs, boats and homes around the world.
The company has launched more than 3,200 satellites since 2019, and thousands more are to come. SpaceX plans to complete the first constellation with 12,000 Starlinks in orbit and has applied for permission to upgrade it to 30,000 satellites.
on Sunday, September. On September 11, SpaceX plans to launch another Starlink mission. This flight, which will carry 54 Starlink satellites, is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex 40. Cape Canaveral Space Force Station 10:53 PM EDT (0253 GMT) in Florida. You will be able to watch this launch live on Space.com at departure time.
Saturday’s launch marked the 41st of the year for SpaceX. This was the company’s 179th launch overall.
Email or follow Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Fandonion and Instagram.
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