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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket deploys 22 second-generation Starlink satellites
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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket deploys 22 second-generation Starlink satellites
by Charles Briggs
Cape Canaveral (SPX) May 19, 2023

The first of two SpaceX missions planned to launch in less than seven hours took off early on Friday from Cape Canaveral, carrying 22 upgraded, new-generation Starlink broadband satellites.

Weather conditions delayed the original launch time from 12:41 a.m. EDT (0421 UTC) to 2:19 a.m. EDT (0619 UTC). The Starlink mission launched from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Florida.

22 Starlink v2 Mini satellites were launched on a southeast trajectory that is 43 degrees incline to the equator. They will be placed in a 344 by 353 km initial orbit. In the upcoming weeks and months, the satellites' onboard argon-fueled propulsion systems will be used to launch them into their operational 530-kilometer circular orbits. Argon is less expensive than the krypton gas that SpaceX previously used to power the ion engines on the Starlink V1.5 satellites.

A Falcon 9 rocket carried the initial batch of 21 Starlink V2 Mini satellites into orbit on Feb. 27, but due to technical issues, some of those satellites were decommissioned and deliberately guided back towards Earth.

Nearly three times heavier than the earlier Starlink satellites, each Starlink V2 Mini satellite weighs around 1,760 pounds (800 kilograms) at launch. The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) regulatory filings indicate that it is larger in size, which fills more of the payload fairing on the Falcon 9 rocket during launch, and has a spacecraft body that is over 13 feet (4.1 meters) wide.

With Starlink group 6-3, 464 Starlink Gen2 satellites, comprising the Starlink V1.5 and Starlink V2 Mini spacecraft, will have been sent into orbit by SpaceX. The total number of Starlink satellites launched since February 2018 will rise to 4,469, of which more than 4,100 are currently in orbit, according to Jonathan Mcdowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who is also an expert tracker of spaceflight activity and tracks the Starlink constellation on his website.

About eight and a half minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9's first-stage booster B1076 returned itself to the autonomous drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG). It has successfully launched and landed for the fifth time for the mission Starlink 6-3.

SpaceX's launch team in California is slated to launch a different Falcon 9 rocket carrying telecom and data relay networks operated by OneWeb and Iridium at 6:19 a.m. PDT (1319 UTC) from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

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