SpaceX Rocket Launch Set for Sunday at Vandenberg SFB
Liftoff of the Falcon rocket, built by Space Exploration Technologies, is scheduled for 8:47 a.m. Sunday from Space Launch Complex-4 on the South Base.
If the mission misses the first window, a second launch opportunity will occur at 12:45 p.m Sunday.
Mariners have been warned to remain off the ocean near the launch site between 5:27 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.
Pilots have been warned to stay out of area between 8:12 a.m. and 1:46 p.m.
SpaceX typically has an instantaneous window to get off the ground so the satellites can be placed where they are needed in space.
Unfavorable weather or technical troubles can cause delays of rocket launch attempts.
If the countdown is delayed a day, a backup launch availability exists for Monday but will be slightly earlier. The two opportunities occur at 8:34 a.m. and 12:31 p.m. Monday.
For Starlink missions, SpaceX typically plans to land the first-stage booster on a droneship, dubbed “Of Course I Still Love You,” positioned in the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles from the Central Coast.
That means residents in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties won’t hear the sonic booms that accompany a first-stage return to land at Vandenberg.
The first-stage booster has already carried spy satellites, a NASA spacecraft and other Starlink satellites into orbit.
For this flight, the rocket will carry 49 Starlink satellites plus D-Orbit’s ION SCV009 Eclectic Elena mission, according to SpaceX.
Starlink involves thousands of satellites designed to deliver Internet access to remote areas of the world, especially regions where the land-based service isn’t available or reliable.
It will be the second of three planned Starlink missions with the other two from Florida. The first blasted off Thursday morning with another planned for early next week from there.
Vandenberg has restricted access, but several locations around the Lompoc Valley provide views of the launch and landing sites, which are south of West Ocean Avenue (Highway 246).
The locations include west of Lompoc, the peak of Harris Grade Road, and near the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads. Providence Landing Park, at 699 Mercury Ave. in Vandenberg Village, also is a popular gathering spot along with West Ocean Avenue west of the Lompoc’s city limits.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets set for Starlink double-header
A pair of SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets are on track to round out the first month of 2023 and kick off the second with a Starlink double-header.
“To complete pre-launch checkouts,” SpaceX delayed its last launch of the month by 24 hours. The first Falcon 9 rocket will launch Starlink 2-6 and a D-Orbit rideshare payload no earlier than 8:29 am PST(16:29 UTC) on Monday, January 30th. The mission will lift off from SpaceX’s Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) SLC-4E pad and head southeast, skirting the California and Mexico coast. In case of bad weather or a minor technical issue, a backup window is available at 12:31 pm PST.
As few as 35.5 or 39.5 hours later, a second Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from SpaceX’s Florida-based NASA Kennedy Space Center LC-39A pad around 3:02 am EST on Tuesday, February 1st.
Kicking off the pair, Starlink 2-6 will be SpaceX’s ninth Starlink rideshare mission since the company began manifesting third-party payloads on its internet satellite launches in June 2020. Falcon 9 will launch the mission’s main payload – a batch of 49 Starlink V1.5 satellites – to a semi-polar orbit that will see them cross Earth’s equator at an angle of 70 degrees. Ordinarily, the mission would carry 51 Starlinks, but SpaceX has removed a pair of satellites to make room for Italian space logistics company CVD ION S-Orbit’s 009 spacecraft.
ION weighs around 160 kilograms (350 lb) on its own and is roughly the size of a large oven. D-Orbit designed the spacecraft to host fixed payloads and deploy rideshare satellites in orbit. It also has a propulsion system that allows it to provide “last-mile delivery services,” offering rideshare customers the ability to tweak the orbit their satellite ends up in. Space tugs like ION aim to give satellite owners some of the benefits of a dedicated rocket launch (custom orbit selection in particular) while retaining most of the cost savings rideshare launches enable.
A render of a D-Orbit ION vehicle.
After reaching orbit, Falcon 9 will deploy ION first, use thrusters to spin itself end over end, and then release all 49 Starlink satellites simultaneously. The spinning stage’s centrifugal force causes the satellite stack to naturally spread out within several hours. The satellites then use reaction wheels to stabilize their orientation, deploy solar panels to begin charging their batteries, and eventually use ion thrusters to climb to operational orbits.
ION SCV009 will attempt to test a new satellite separation system built by EBAD and demonstrate its ability to operate in very low Earth orbit (VLEO). The spacecraft will potentially lower itself to an altitude of 270 kilometers (170 mi).
Start von SpaceX’s 66th Starlink mission and 67th Starlink launch and ION SCVD-Orbit’s 009 spacecraft