Launch Spotlight: Starlink Group 4-4 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

Early Friday morning SpaceX is preparing to launch another batch of Starlink satellites into a polar orbit. This will be the second operational Starlink mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base and could be one of the final missions from SpaceX in 2021.

Launch Date: Saturday, December 18, 7:41 a.m. EST

Rocket: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 (1051-11)

Payload: 52 Starlink satellites

Launch Pad: SLC-4E, Vandenberg Space Force Base, California

Destination: Low Earth Orbit

Landing Site: Of Course I Still Love You, Pacific Ocean

What is the Falcon 9?

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is the workhorse of commercial launches into Earth orbit. Nine Merlin engines power the partially reusable rocket on the first stage and a single vacuum optimized Merlin on the second stage. The Falcon 9 has launched a total of 131 times with a 98% success rate, making it a highly trusted vehicle among the commercial, scientific, and defense sectors.

The Booster

Falcon 9 first stage booster 1051 is one of the few ten launch veterans of SpaceX’s booster fleet. Dating back to 2019, B1051 first took flight on the DM-1 mission, taking the first Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. Since then, B1051 has launched seven Starlink missions and two commercial missions, RADARSAT and SXM-7. This will be the first booster to launch for the 11th time, continuing SpaceX’s push for the reusability of its rockets.

Booster 1051 past launches

  1. SpaceX DM-1 (March 2, 2019)
  2. RADARSAT (June 12, 2019)
  3. Starlink v1.0 L3 (January 29, 2020)
  4. Starlink v1.0 L6 (April 22, 2020)
  5. Starlink v1.0 L9 (August 7, 2020)
  6. Starlink v1.0 L13 (October 18, 2020)
  7. SXM-7 (December 13, 2020)
  8. Starlink v1.0 L16 (January 20, 2021)
  9. Starlink v1.0 L21 (March 14, 2021)
  10. Starlink V1.0 L27 (May 9, 2021)

Where to watch?

You can find coverage of Friday’s Starlink launch on SpaceX’s YouTube channel. The live stream will usually go live about 15 minutes before liftoff and will offer the best views of the launch.

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