In the early hours of this morning, SpaceX launched the company’s tenth Starlink mission carrying 57 satellites. The mission also carried a Spaceflight Industries Inc rideshare mission which deployed a pair of BlackSky Global Earth observation satellites.
The Falcon 9 carrying the 59 satellites was launched from the Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A at 05:12 UTC this morning.
Following a successful launch, the rocket entered a 40-minute coast phase before a second upper stage burn. After another short coast phase, the first BlackSky Global Earth observation satellite was deployed into low Earth orbit with the second follow five minutes later.
With the hitchhikers deployed, the focus shifted to the mission’s primary payload. Approximately 1 hour 33 minutes after liftoff, the mission was concluded successfully with all 57 Starlink satellites drifting away from the rocket’s upper stage.
According to a SpaceX update, all 57 satellites launched aboard this morning mission featured a deployable sun visor. The technology had previously been tested on a single satellite launched aboard a previous Starlink mission. It is hoped that it will assist with blocking sunlight from reflecting off the brightest sections of the satellites, a phenomenon that has been at the center of a debate around the perilous future of ground-based astronomy.
The Falcon 9 first stage booster utilised for this morning’s launch had previously supported four other missions. Designated B1051, the booster was first launched in support of the uncrewed test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon in March 2019. After being used to launch three RADARSAT satellites for the Canadian Space Agency in June 2019, the booster launched a pair of Starlink missions in January and April of this year.
Following successful first stage separation, the booster was recovered for a fifth time touching down on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.