- Parabolic Arc
- May 26, 2023
SpaceX Launches 16th Starlink Mission
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Tuesday, November 24 at 9:13 p.m. EST, SpaceX launched its sixteenth Starlink mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster that supported this mission previously flew on six other missions: the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and four Starlink missions in May 2019, January 2020, June 2020, and August 2020.
ollowing stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was located in the Atlantic Ocean. One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported a mission, and the other half previously supported two.
Last month, SpaceX launched its “Better Than Nothing Beta” test program. Service invites were sent to a portion of those who requested availability updates on Starlink.com and who live in serviceable areas.
A couple weeks ago, Canada granted Starlink regulatory approval and SpaceX has now rolled out the service to parts of southern Canada.
If you would like to learn more about the service, please visit the Reddit AMA SpaceX engineers recently participated in.
29 responses to “SpaceX Launches 16th Starlink Mission”
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Congratulations again to SpaceX. Double Congratulations as they also had a successful static fire for SN8 clearing if for the 15km flight next week.??
Falcon 9 has 100 launches now too. 7 flights for this booster. They should start naming these boosters. At some point, one has be called “Old Number 7”.
Musk did tweet the “Life Leader” moniker for this booster. 🙂
There is a possibility that the B1049 booster could close out the year with another 60 Starlink comsats to LEO. If one of the launches in December got push to right due to the payload.
I believe the record holder is 6 weeks between launches? If that goes off, it would be a new record, and with such an old lady no less. That would say a lot about the regeneration program for boosters.
Working the experience curve. The question is how much will be transferable to the Starship/Super Heavy.
Starship is a big truck you can bolt things on. I can see it going both ways. Some subsystems will work, some won’t. Techniques will probably transfer better given any practice that works on the delicate Falcon 9 will have much more margin on the truck. Let’s see how robust this shell is for the coming flight. Note that none of the hopping starships flew twice. I was expecting a demonstration of how robust the shells were by staging a prompt reflight. That may mean something.
And if SN8 fails the SN9 is already complete except for its engines. So could be a fast turn around. But it appears work has stopped on SN10 pending another redesign based on test experience.
Depending how fundamental any problem that may come up is, that may not matter. Keep in mind how wrong your Starship Troopers have been about how fast this program was going to be. You guys were saying we’d be in orbit by now with massive payloads flying.
Starship might still get to orbit before SLS, New Glenn, Vulcan, or Ariane 6.
Are the two systems racing? SLS’s life will be short no matter how well, or how poorly it performs. SLS has been doing it’s main mission since funding started. It’s sole purpose is to cycle money through senators districts. Maybe it will deliver a few payloads. I was wrong about SLS flying first. Obviously, the sources of delay on that program are not done exercising themselves. It’s obviously not a program predicated on flying. I did think it would be flying about this year. I was wrong.
That might be true, I suppose. But it’s also true that SN10’s lowers have been done for close to two weeks while SN9, awaiting completion, prevented SN10 from moving from Mid Bay to High Bay. There’s also the completion of SN10’s uppers in the Low Bay/Windbreak to be done and we’ve yet to see either the nosecone or barrel section appear outdoors yet. Delays in getting SN8 off the ground have backed up production of lowers and production of upper sections seems to be constrained by production of component subassemblies. How much of this is attributable to the as yet undisclosed redesign can’t yet really be pinned down. One hopes more news about these matters will be forthcoming after SN8’s 15km test flight.
Starship is going to have three challenges
1. as you point out that the nonstandard material can sustain the same use rate that Falcon is (at least)
2. that the aerodynamics of it all work, particularly the heat issue on reentry
3. that the infrastructure stuff (like on orbit refueling with cryos) and the engine reuse works
I think its probably all manageable. but not by 22
I agree. I think next year will be telling about how soon they start closing the gap to orbital flight. If that gap does not start closing very fast, I think ’22 is going to be doubtful. Look at how slow the gap to orbit has narrowed in 2020. Lots of things have to happen in ’21 if flights to orbit are going to happen in ’22 let alone ’21. I won’t be surprised if it goes closer or even into 2023 before going to orbit.
I guess anything is possible…but
its unclear to me that 22 is even possible now. a trip to orbit would require them to solve everything I talked about AND build the complete “system” ie both stages, integrate and fly them…and that is just in an uncrewed mode…then well they have to put the parts tht keep humans alive together 🙂
Everything they’ve done so far has been a ‘half assed’ effort. I think that’s why Starship looks so doubtful to some folks. But there’s all kinds of half assed measures they can take to orbit. They could not worry about reentry and just dump it into the SE Pacific and use telemetry to learn as much as they can on the way down. An empty starship is supposed to be an SSTO …. I don’t buy that. I think an advanced well understood, lightened starship might be SSTO, or close. But a zero payload to orbit Starship might only need a partially engined, partially fueled booster. Given the fuel margins in the design, there’s all kinds of half assed measures they can take to get to orbit earlier.
I still think an initial jaunt to orbit is quite possible in 2021. But it’s nice to see both you and RGO pulling back, incrementally, from earlier assertions of late 2020s.
There has been some solid progress, and the Musk money machine is more robust than I gave it credit for. He’s not making his money off selling launches with SpaceX, or cars, it’s the Las Vegas like operations that are attached to those real industrial operations. I honestly did not think he’d make as much money as he apparently has at the craps table.
Craps is a game of chance. SpaceX is a game of skill.
SpaceX is making enough from commercial and government launches to cover all the launch costs of the Starlink missions and a decent chunk of the cost of the birds themselves. With enough now on orbit to support beta service rollouts in both the U.S. and Canada, the first trickles of Starlink revenue have started to flow in. That’s the biggest reason the value of SpaceX has roughly tripled over the past year.
By this time next year, there will likely be ca. 2,500 Starlink birds deployed and total subscriber count could be in the mid-to-high six figures. Starlink revenue could equal launch revenue, though Starlink still wouldn’t be in the black overall, but would be quickly getting there.
Of course you think a launch to orbit might happen next year. You thought they’d happen last year. 😉 Happy Thanksgiving man!
No, I didn’t. I thought it might happen this year. It won’t. But the rate of recent progress makes 2021 look to be a pretty good bet.
Hhahah, yes you did. In 2017 you thought it was believable BF(x) would be flying to orbit by 2019. I remember taking you to task on all the things that had to happen in less than 2 years. You really live in a dream world you know. It’s so obvious that you’re like a little kid watching this program and you drool over all the promises and future goal posts, and then get angry at me when I put reality on your plate. As delay and disaster after delay and disaster play out, you never lose the faith, you just keep resetting. You’re amazing. Your faith is infinite, and you never normalize your expectations based on past or even current performance of a system. What a strange person.
I have no recollection of that, but I’ll take your word for it. So if SH-Starship makes orbit in 2021 That’ll make me, according to you, two years off. That’ll still leave you and Oler with all that “years and years” and “end-of-the-decade” stuff on your backtrail. And I’m supposed to be strange?
But we said that before the decade turned. 😉 So we were right. Our dates started in the ’22 to 25 range. It’s been a while. It’s kind of like in ’45 when people said the Soviets would get the bomb in five years. Then in ’49 everybody was shocked. As long as they stay at it, it’ll happen. I’ve never said BF(x) breaks the rocket equation. I just said it was a totally new technology thread, and was going to take years to turn on and start flying.
Happy thanksgiving from istanbul…but back in Texas shortly
in no particular order 🙂
there is next to no chance that this thing is in any shape an SSTO. I had some “background” in the Delta Clipper program …flight controls …and SSTO is a pipedream that requires near perfect engineeering and mass ratios…and prototypes dont have those. now eventually as they figure out true loads etc…they might can what I call “silverplate” (obvious reference) it to do an SSTO once around or something…but even DC was talking about a stage zero
I can see that. a sort of slightly bigger hopper that takes the entire stack a bit passed max Q and then its “SSTO” from there…but…
they are no where really until they see how the aerodynamics of what they want to do work as well as the stress levels on all this new manufacturing choices
I am not telling you that they cannot get there…but the closest I think that they will get anything to orbit is the 24-25 time span (go and return)
this is why Musk has gone on with Starlink on old Falcons…it not only test the falcon life effort but well gets that going (and from what I hear results are encouraging) btw 25 for a prototype to space would be impressive.
I don’t disagree at all. I’m not seeing things converge toward a orbital capable vehicle yet. Except those engines. Those are very very impressive rocket engines. I’d call them a new class of chemical rocket engine unforeseen even 10 years ago.
I think 3 is the longest pole of these, especially the orbital refueling. The main reason being testing is harder more time consuming. I’d be shocked if they have big problems with stainless on reuse. You can start with a bit thicker TPS to reduce stress on hot primary structure and walk it back as an optimization. I can’t think of a way that stainless is less forgiving than Shuttle or F9 booster primary structure.
Before those 3 is getting the belly-flop controlled, and the rotation back to vertical (before or after relighting a Raptor).
I wouldn’t read too much into the non re-flight of SN5 or SN6. Both were constructed of 301 stainless and the design has moved on to use of 304L. So it makes more sense – especially in view of the fact that prototypes are being built faster than they can be tested – to move active testing to newer prototypes made of the newer standard alloy.
There’s also the matter of the rapidly improving build quality of successive prototypes. SN6 has better looking welds and less dishing in its ring sections than does SN5. SN8 looks better than SN6. SN9 looks better than SN8. This progression seems likely to continue as the six additional prototypes beyond SN9, for which extant subassemblies have been identified, progress through the fabrication process.
Anent alloys and prototypes, the about-to-fly SN8 is still partially made of 301 stainless. The nose cone, I believe, is 301, though maybe not the upper flaps mounted to it. So, even if SN8 survives the upcoming 15km hop, it probably won’t be flown again. The all-304L SN9 has now completed stacking and will likely be ready to quickly follow SN8 out to the launch area in coming days.
The testing bottleneck is likely to worsen as successive prototypes seem to be reaching completion more quickly. The nearly complete High Bay will support Super Heavy stacking on one side – the first instance of which has already begun – and the stacking of Starship uppers and lowers on the other side.
SN9 is the first prototype to follow this new procedure rather than have final stacking done at the pad as was the case with SN8. With no need to move two large subassemblies out to the pad area instead of just one completed rocket, and no need to also move out a large crane then remove it, the fabrication interval for a full prototype is now on the order of a week shorter.
SN10, whose lowers have been complete for awhile now, awaits SN9’s departure from the High Bay in order to take its place and wait for its own uppers to be completed. Nose cones likely destined to top off SN10 and SN11 have been visible in the nose cone fabrication tent for some time. With SN11’s lowers nearly complete in the mid-bay there could be as many as three additional prototypes beyond SN9 completed by year’s end. Additional progress in stacking the first Super Heavy should also be made by then.
I don’t know when we’ll see the first re-flight of a prototype. That might well depend upon how soon build quality improvement plateaus.
I’m surprised they didn’t refly SN5 and SN6 to iron out pad operations and improve landing legs. Elon almost promised as much.
Seemed to make sense to test them to destruction as long as it doesn’t endanger pad infrastructure.
Elon is already saying major changes for SN15, so why not test the earlier ones, Maybe they are still short on Raptors ?
Have there been any pictures of the SH1 thrust structure yet ?