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SpaceX launches 55 Starlink satellites early Sunday morning
Photo by C&J Images.
SpaceX launches 55 Starlink satellites early Sunday morning
by Charles Briggs
Space Coast FL (SPX) Feb 14, 2023

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket thundered off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, at 12:10:10 a.m. EST (0510:10 GMT) on Sunday, despite the weather.

SpaceX's Starlink Group mission 5-4 launched 55 Starlink satellites onboard the Falcon 9. This is the fourth launch into a new orbital shell for SpaceX's second-generation Starlink constellation, called Starlink Gen2, which first launched in December 2022.

Despite the name, these satellites will be placed into a 43-degree orbit at an altitude between 185 miles and 210 miles (298-339 kilometers), unlike the previously filled Starlink Shell 5, which was placed into a polar low-Earth circular orbit at about 348 miles (560 km).

The mission was the tenth launch by SpaceX so far this year. With the launch of Starlink Group 5-4's 55 new satellites on Sunday, the total number of Starlink satellites launched since February 2018 will rise to 3,928, with plans to add thousands more in the coming years.

SpaceX currently has nearly 3,500 functioning Starlink satellites in orbit, with more than 3,100 operational and roughly 300 moving into their operational altitude, 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.

The reusable booster B1062 completed its twelfth trip to space on Sunday and softly landed on the autonomous drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, named "A Shortfall of Gravitas" (ASOG), around 410 miles (660 km) downrange northeast of the Bahamas, approximately eight and a half minutes after liftoff.

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