This morning, SpaceX launched its Starlink Group 4-4 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This was the first time SpaceX launched a booster for the eleventh time, further proving the reliability of its Falcon 9 first stage.
About Starlink Group 4-4
A unique non-polar launch from the US West Coast, Starlink 4-4 launched 52 Starlink satellites into a 53.2 degree inclination. The Falcon 9 rocket hugged the California and Mexico coastline to place its payload into the correct orbit.
We have seen plenty of Starlink missions before, and this one is similar to the rest. Starlink 4-4’s satellites will help fill the internet constellation’s fourth orbital shell. Like recent Starlink missions, the 52 satellites were version 1.5. These are similar to the original 1.0 satellites but feature laser interlinks for communications between satellites. While they are good enough to build out the initial constellation, they are not “financially strong,” according to Elon Musk. Starlink version 2.0 satellites will be required to make the service viable, and that will need Starship.
B1051: The first eleventh flown booster
This flight featured a milestone for SpaceX with the first eleventh flown Falcon 9 booster. SpaceX initially set the goal for booster reflight at ten, but Musk stated that while leading up to the milestone, SpaceX will continue to fly them until it observes a failure.
Luckily for Starlink, the booster did not fail and placed the satellites into their correct orbit. B1051 first launched on SpaceX’s DM-1 mission, the first flight of a Crew Dragon, in 2019. Since then, it has now flown eight Starlink missions, Sirius XM-7, and RADARSAT for the Candian Space Agency. It currently holds the title of the most flown booster, with B1049 right behind, awaiting its next launch assignment.
SpaceX Falcon 9 booster 1051 launches
- SpaceX DM-1 (March 2, 2019)
- RADARSAT (June 12, 2019)
- Starlink v1.0 L3 (January 29, 2020)
- Starlink v1.0 L6 (April 22, 2020)
- Starlink v1.0 L9 (August 7, 2020)
- Starlink v1.0 L13 (October 18, 2020)
- Sirius XM-7 (December 13, 2020)
- Starlink v1.0 L16 (January 20, 2021)
- Starlink v1.0 L21 (March 14, 2021)
- Starlink V1.0 L27 (May 9, 2021)
- Starlink Group 4-4 (December 18, 2021)
Featured Image: @PeregrineDev / Space Explored