SpaceX launched an advanced new constellation of military satellites into orbit for the US Space Force on Saturday (September 2) after a two-day delay and tied its own flight rate record at the same time.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 13 Space Force Space Development Agency (SDA) spacecraft lifted off into the hazy morning sky above Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Saturday at 10:26 a.m. EDT (1426 GMT; 7:26 a.m. EDT). local california). With the first stage booster returning to Vandenberg to continue its descent. This was the missile’s thirteenth flight.
“With this launch, this marks SpaceX’s 61st launch of 2023, matching last year’s annual record with four months to go before the end of this year,” Zachary Lubin, SpaceX avionics reliability engineer, said during live commentary.
SpaceX initially attempted to launch the Tranche 0 mission on August 31, but was delayed due to an unexpected response from one of the nine engines in the Falcon 9’s first stage, Lubin said. He added that the second attempt on September 1 was canceled about 12 minutes before Take-off due to a valve problem in the ground equipment.
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Saturday’s launch marks SpaceX’s second launch in support of the Deployed Combat Space Architecture (PWSA), a “new layered network of low-Earth orbit satellites and supporting elements that will provide global military communications, tracking, and missile warning capabilities,” SpaceX wrote in a Task description.
PWSA’s first mission took place in early April, when a Falcon 9 rocket launched 10 satellites from Vandenberg.
These first two missions are dedicated to building Tranche 0, a demonstration constellation that will consist of 28 satellites. According to the Space News website. Most are communications vehicles, but some are designed to detect missiles.
As the name suggests, Tranche 0 is just the beginning of the PWSA.
Under the plan, the Space Force will have hundreds of small satellites, with new satellites launched every few years to increase flexibility and capabilities in orbit. She wrote for Air Force and Space Magazine In late March.
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 first stage will return to land at Vandenberg about 7.5 minutes after launch today. This was the 13th launch and landing of this particular booster, and the 222nd overall recovery of an orbital-class rocket by SpaceX, Lubin said. He added that this was also the company’s 260th launch overall.
It is not clear when the satellites will be deployed. SpaceX did not provide any information about this achievement. This is not surprising. Details are often scarce in national security missions.
At the request of the Space Development Agency, SpaceX has now shown any live video views of the Falcon 9’s upper stage during Saturday’s launch, ending its webcast shortly after the rocket’s first stage touched down.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. EDT to reflect the successful launch of the second Tranch 0 mission by SpaceX.
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