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SpaceX orbits 60 more Starlink satellites, restores booster and captures fairing halves

SpaceX has successfully orbited another batch of 60 Starlink satellites, the land Falcon 9 booster, which launched it and captured both halves of the rocket’s payload curve.

Starlink-13 is now the second time ever that SpaceX has simultaneously restored a Falcon 9 booster and caught both fairing halves on the same mission and came just shy three months after the first success.

Falcon 9 streaks towards space with 60-satellite Starlink-13 payload on tow. (SpaceX)

The first full-fairing capture came just shyly three months earlier, during SpaceX’s launch of the ANASIS II military communications satellite to South Korea. SpaceX confirmed the back-to-back catch about an hour after the Falcon 9’s July 20 liftoff, followed by built-in videos showing both catches.

For twin winding ships GO Ms. Tree (formerly Mr. Steven) and GO Ms. Chief marked the successful recovery effectively the first time the couple reached their design goal of full decor. Technically, SpaceX has already proven that mantle halves can be flown at least three times, even after unanswered catches and sea splashes, but avoiding immersion in salt water helps avoid corrosion and makes recycling much easier.

One step further, both Starlink-13 Falcon fairing halves, SpaceX captured on October 18, had already been launched twice before – the second and third time SpaceX has flown the same fairing half three times. Unfortunately, one of the two halves apparently tore through the receiving ship’s net when it was caught and could be briefly seen hitting the net’s support arms. SpaceX will have to determine if it has suffered any damage that could prevent future reuse.

Meanwhile, about thirty minutes before Mrs. Tree and Mrs. Chief’s second fairing recovery hat-trick, Starlink-13’s awarded the Falcon 9 booster successfully landed aboard the drone ship Of course I still love you (OCISLY). Designated B1051 and originally tasked with supporting Crew Dragon’s unmanned orbital launch debut back in March 2019, the Starlink-13 was the first successful sixth launch and landing of the first floor, making it the second Falcon 9 booster to complete six flights.

For Starlink-13, the use – and a successful recovery – of a five-flight booster and a two-flight cabinet probably means that the marginal cost of the mission to SpaceX was slightly more than the cost of fuel (<$ 500,000) and Falcon 9's top consumption steps (~ $ 10 million) corresponding to almost unimaginable ~ $ 700 per. kg actual launched Starlink satellites. Assuming that each Starlink satellite costs approx. $ 250,000, it's easy to believe that SpaceX regularly launches 60 high-performance communications satellites at an all-inclusive price of only $ 25M-30M.

As an example of the impact of the extraordinary affordability, if SpaceX puts its entire latest $ 2B fundraiser against Starlink missions, it could likely complete 60-80 launches and place some 3600-4800 new satellites in orbit. The entire first phase of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation – which offers uninterrupted broadband internet anywhere on Earth – requires ~ 4400 satellites.

Coincidentally, the Falcon 9 B1049 – the first booster to launch and land six times – was seen just outside SpaceX’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) LC-39A launch facility the day (October 17) before the B1051 took off from the same pad. The booster appears to be waiting more or less for its next flight, suggesting that all post-flight treatment has already been completed since its last launch on August 18th.

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