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Falcon 9 investigation ongoing as SpaceX continues Starlink launches

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched one other set of Starlink satellites Oct. 18 because the investigation into one other Falcon 9 launch abort greater than two weeks in the past continues.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complicated 39A on the Kennedy House Heart at eight:25 a.m. Japanese. The rocket’s higher stage deployed the payload of 60 Starlink satellites 63 minutes after liftoff. The rocket’s first stage, making its sixth launch, landed on a droneship within the Atlantic Ocean.

With this launch, SpaceX has now positioned 835 Starlink satellites into orbit. Nevertheless, greater than 50 of these satellites have since reentered, together with 45 of the 60 “v0.9” Starlink satellites launched in Could 2019 and the primary two “Tintin” prototypes launched in February 2018.

Starlink is presently in a non-public beta take a look at of its broadband web system, and the corporate has stated it plans to supply a extra public beta take a look at earlier than the tip of the yr. In each the launch webcast in addition to latest filings with the Federal Communications Fee, the corporate has highlighted early customers of the system, such because the emergency administration division within the state of Washington, which used Starlink to offer connectivity throughout latest wildfires within the state, in addition to the Hoh tribe within the state, which beforehand had no broadband entry due to its distant location.

The launch is the second Starlink mission in lower than two weeks as SpaceX seeks to take care of a fee of roughly two Starlink launches a month to construct out the constellation. These launches have moved forward whereas one other Falcon 9, carrying a GPS three navigation satellite tv for pc for the U.S. House Drive, stays grounded after a last-second abort Oct. 2 blamed on an issue with fuel turbines within the rocket’s first-stage engines.

That scrub led NASA to postpone a Falcon 9 launch of the Crew-1 business crew mission, which had been scheduled for Oct. 31. NASA introduced Oct. 10 it was suspending the launch to the primary half of November whereas the investigation into the scrub continues.

NASA has not issued any updates on the standing of the Crew-1 launch, though one NASA webpage lists a launch of no sooner than Nov. 11. “That investigation is ongoing,” Tim Dunn of NASA’s Launch Companies Program stated at an Oct. 16 briefing concerning the scheduled Nov. 10 launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean science satellite tv for pc, which can even use a Falcon 9.

Dunn stated that there was a “large quantity of testing” for the reason that GPS three launch scrub, together with taking the Merlin engines from that rocket again to SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas, take a look at website for additional examine. That investigation has concerned NASA and House Drive personnel working with SpaceX.

He didn’t elaborate, although, on the precise drawback with the engines or when both the GPS three or Crew-1 missions may launch. “We’ve discovered rather a lot. There’s going to be some implications as we transfer ahead, relying on the engines put in on varied rockets,” he stated.

Nevertheless, he didn’t anticipate the engine concern to delay the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch. “As of right now, we’ve a path ahead that enables us to do no matter essential rework could also be required and nonetheless preserve that 10 November launch date.”

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