Monday, September 12, 2022

SpaceX Sets Another Reuse Record

Little noticed (anyplace I look) this weekend is that SpaceX set yet another reuse record for the Falcon 9.  The fleet leader, booster 1058 (B1058) successfully flew its 14th mission Saturday night. The Starlink 4-2 mission was a combination rideshare mission with 34 Starlink satellites and their largest rideshare payload yet – AST SpaceMobile’s 1.5-ton (~3300 lb) communications satellite BlueWalker 3. 

The mission was one for those who like milestone numbers. In addition to marking the 14th flight of B1058, the booster whose first flight was the Crew Demo 2 to the ISS in May of  '20, this was the 52nd successful Falcon 9 launch in 52 weeks, and the 150th consecutive successful launch for SpaceX.  B1058 successfully landed on recovery ship A Shortfall Of Gravitas - as you can see in the above screen capture, and video here.  

It was also stated that this mission required the most upper stage engine firings and maneuvering. 

Once free from the booster, Falcon 9’s expendable upper stage kicked off SpaceX’s most complex commercial launch ever. Measuring about six minutes long, the first and longest burn brought the second stage and payload into an elliptical orbit a few hundred kilometers above Earth’s surface. A second burn followed about 45 minutes after liftoff, raising the low end of that ellipse to deploy BlueWalker 3 into a circular orbit around 500 kilometers (~310 mi). Using a massive antenna, AST SpaceMobile’s first large satellite prototype will eventually attempt to directly communicate with mobile phones to provide a level of connectivity equivalent to 5G/LTE – all from space.

After deploying BlueWalker 3, the upper stage then lowered its orbit in two more engine burns, to deploy the Starlink satellites.  While the operational altitude for Starlink is higher than BlueWalker 3's 310 miles, they were deployed at around 210 miles, where debris and faulty satellites will take days – rather than years – to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. 

Finally, with this being the 52nd launch in 52 weeks, the company has achieved their goal of one launch per week average for a year, it's just not a calendar year.  At their current rate of launches, they could conceivably hit 60 launches for calendar 2022.

Saturday's launch.  Richard Angle photo for Teslarati.  Note at bottom right, the red streak is the reentry burn of B1058.  I believe the white spot is from the ships deployed to support ASOG, all of which are below the horizon. 

EDIT 9/12/22 11:00PM: the typo monster came and inserted one after hitting "publish."


  1. SpaceX just keeps smackin' 'em outta the park, showing NASA how it should be done. Kudos to all the ground support people that have Launch/land/relaunch down pat. Being a Starlink user, I really appreciate what Musk & Crew have accomplished!

    1. I'm speechless. Somehow... I never saw that one.

    2. Ha. Ha ha. Giggle-snort. Hahahahahaha. That was good.

  2. Musk says they are looking at 100 launches next year. Crazy numbers. And I'm sure they'll exceed that given half a chance.

    I'm surprised you didn't say anything about New Sheppard's little mishap today.

  3. So basically, Space-X is shooting for lapping NASA's entire manned space program from 1961-69.

    The reason we haven't sold NASA to Space-X wholesale, lock-stock-and-barrel, to let Musk strip-mine the assets and fire the deadweight (other than naked pork-barreling) is...what, exactly?

    1. Politics. The Space Industry pork would dry up almost instantly!!

    2. I saw the amazing statement a few weeks ago, that if they keep up the current launch rate for the rest of '22, they will have launched more satellites since 2017 than the entire rest of the world did from the first orbital launches through 2017.

      That's not lapping NASA. That's lapping NASA, Russia, China, and everyone else combined.

    3. Lacking precise numbers, I erred on the cautious side.
      But the reality doesn't surprise me at all.

      And since it's pure pork, disband them. They're the PBS of space, except without the Muppets, Ken Burns, or Downton Abbey to prop them up.

      Let Space Command come in and cherry pick what they need for their mission, and then sell rest to Space-X in a fire sale. 20 states could use the engineering expertise in better places, and we could stipulate that the proceeds all go directly to pay down principal on the national debt. Win-win.

      Make NASA a museum, and move on. Right now, it looks more like funding Lewis & Clark's expedition into the 1880s, if not the 1980s.