A SpaceX rocket carried 52 Starlink internet satellites into orbit from California early on December 18, 2021. The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from coastal Vandenberg Space Force Base at 4:41 am and arced over the Pacific.
The Falcon’s first stage returned and landed on a SpaceX drone ship in the ocean. It was the 11th launch and recovery of the stage. The second stage continued into orbit and deployment of the satellites was confirmed, said launch commentator Youmei Zhou at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 18, 2021
Starlink is a satellite-based global internet system that SpaceX has been building for years to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. This mission was the 34th launch for Starlink, a constellation of nearly 2,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.
Swelling Starlink constellation
SpaceX has some 1944 crafts that have been launched, of which 1729 are working, plus the 52 launched on December 18. Some are “out of constellation” and others where there appears to be some anomaly. Roughly the Starlink constellation now has 1880 satellites in orbit.
The first Starlink was launched back in February 2018. The 1600 number of satellites is widely accepted as key to enabling Musk’s team to provide global coverage for consumers. But there’s still work to be done. Musk has FCC approval to launch 4408 satellites in Phase 1 and another 7500 satellites (working in the V-band). Then there’s another application (with the Canadian government) to provide up to 30,000 satellites using E-band for additional global coverage.
The Turkish delight
From SpaceX’s traditional launch site in Florida, the second saw the successful placing of Turksat 5B into its electrical orbit, raising to a final destination of 42 degrees East. This was the first time two Falcon 9 rockets were launched on the same day.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 19, 2021
The California flight was the 28th Falcon 9 mission for SpaceX so far in 2021, setting a new company record for the largest number of rocket launches in a year. (That record was previously set in 2020, with SpaceX launching 26 Falcon 9 rockets.) The launch used the Falcon 9 booster for the 11th time, another record.
The Florida-launched booster for Turksat 5B also safely returned to its floating landing barge. Another Falcon 9 will launch on December 21.