SpaceX launched a new — and massive — commercial communications satellite into orbit late Saturday and set a new record for a Falcon 9 launch at the same time.
The Falcon 9 was launched into orbit from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with 34 SpaceX on board. Starlink Internet satellites and BlueWalker 3, a satellite prototype built by AST SpaceMobile that has been described as the largest commercial communications suite ever launched into space. The take-off was at 9:20 p.m. EDT (0120 GMT) Saturday night (September 10), with Falcon 9 booster making some SpaceX The date when he returned to Earth.
Jesse Anderson, SpaceX Production Engineering Director, said during direct comment (Opens in a new tab).
The expedition also identified some other records.
It was SpaceX’s first five-engine combustion mission to deploy payloads into orbit, as well as the company’s heaviest engagement payload ever. (Blue Walker 3 It weighs 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms), Anderson said.)
Meet the BlueWalker 3 from AST SpaceMobile
While SpaceX’s primary goal for Saturday’s launch was to add 34 new Starlink Satellites For its growing planet in orbit, AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite stood out for its size and ambitious mission.
The satellite, which will measure 693 square feet (64 square meters) when fully revealed, is the largest commercial antenna array ever launched into space. Its mission: To test new technology designed to provide global cellular service directly to users from space. The goal is to bridge coverage gaps and provide high-speed and seamless phone and data service in underserved areas.
“The reason our satellite is so big is that in order to connect to a low-power, low-internal power phone, you just need a large one-sided antenna with a great deal of power, and that’s an important part of our infrastructure,” said Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer at AST SpaceMobile, Space.com in an interview. “We think this is really important for direct communication with feature phones, without any change to the phone, without any additional burdens on the user.”
It will be several weeks before AST SpaceMobile orders the BlueWalker 3 to deploy its spring-loaded antenna, Wisniewski said. He added that during that time, the company will conduct a series of health checks to ensure the safety of the satellite.
AST SpaceMobile has partnered with 25 cellular service providers, 10 of whom will take part in a planned six-month getaway on BlueWalker 3 to test its capabilities across six continents around the world. These partners include service providers such as Vodaphone, Rakuten Mobile and Orange, and can reach 1.8 million phone users, Wisniewski said. Earlier this summer, the company received FCC License to Test BlueWalker 3 in Texas and Hawaii in the United States.
In order to provide complete coverage, AST SpaceMobile will need more than one satellite. “This is the culmination of a kind of R&D phase for our company before we move into satellite production next year,” Wisniewski said.
The company plans to follow BlueWalker 3 with five operational satellites in 2023. Ultimately, it aims to build a constellation of at least 100 giant satellites to provide full coverage.
AST SpaceMobile isn’t alone in seeking to cover cell phones from space. Lynk Global is working on a similar project and Elon Musk revealed last month that SpaceX partners with T-Mobile To provide cellular service with Starlink satellites.
Because of their size, AST SpaceMobile’s satellites may be visible to sky watchers from Earth, and some astronomers have criticized the plan for its potential impact on telescope observations from Earth, according to New Scientist report (Opens in a new tab). If this complaint sounds familiar, that’s because it is One punished SpaceX’s Starlink constellation Once that company began to release dozens of them simultaneously.
Record rocket reuse as Starlink grows
About 8.5 minutes after the launch of the BlueWalker 3 and Starlink satellites, the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket returned to Earth to land precisely aboard the A Shortfall Of Gravitas drone in the Atlantic Ocean. The landing set a new record for the number of Falcon 9 booster launches.
Ahead of Saturday’s flight, the Falcon 9 stage launched eight different Starlink missions, as well as the first test flight for NASA’s SpaceX astronaut (called Demo-2) in May 2020; South Korea’s ANASIS-2 satellite in July 2020; The unmanned CRS-21 cargo mission to NASA’s International Space Station in December 2020, as well as the Transfer 1 and Transporter 3 missions in January 2021 and January 2022, respectively.
When Elon Musk unveils the Falcon 9 Block 5 spine Booster in 2018, he said SpaceX’s goal was to launch it at least 10 times. With each subsequent flight, the company pushed its limits to reusing rockets as part of its effort to cut the cost of spaceflight.
Similarly, SpaceX has continued to increase the size of its Starlink constellation, as well as the number of countries and coverage areas in recent years. in August, Royal Caribbean announced (Opens in a new tab) Starlink will be used on all of its cruise ships by 2023, with SpaceX already providing services for recreational vehicles, boats and homes around the world.
The company has launched more than 3,200 satellites since 2019, with thousands more to come. SpaceX plans to complete its initial batch with 12,000 Starlinks in orbit and has applied for permission to increase that to 30,000 satellites.
On Sunday, September 11, SpaceX plans to launch another Starlink mission. This flight, which will carry 54 Starlink satellites, is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida at 10:53 PM EDT (0253 GMT). You’ll be able to watch this launch live on Space.com at the time of liftoff.
Saturday’s launch was the 41st of the year for SpaceX. It was the company’s 179th launch overall.
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