SpaceX launches Starlink satellites, but booster landing fails – SpaceNews

WASHINGTON – SpaceX launched another set of Falcon 9 satellites on February 15, but suffered a rare failed landing of the rocket’s first phase during the mission.

Falcon 9 took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at. 22:59 Eastern, after adverse weather conditions caused a day delay. The rocket released its payload on 60 Starlink satellites in orbit 65 minutes after liftoff.

However, the first phase of the rocket did not land as a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean as planned. Video from the drone ship around the time of landing showed a glow in the distance, suggesting a problem with the booster that either caused it to go off course or deliberately distract from the landing attempt. SpaceX did not immediately reveal what happened during the failed landing.

The bug broke a series of 24 consecutive Falcon 9 launches with successful landings, either on drone ships or on land. The last failure took place in March 2020 and was the second failure in three Falcon 9 launches. The March fault was caused by the engine cleaning fluid being trapped inside and interfering with a sensor, while the previous fault was blamed for incorrect wind data.

The booster at this launch made its sixth flight. It first flew in December 2019 on a cargo Dragon mission and was then used for another cargo Dragon in March 2020. It then launched a set of Starlink satellites along with three SkySats to Planet in June, followed by SAOCOM-1B in August and NROL -108 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office in December.

However, the primary purpose of the mission was a success and added to the growing constellation of Starlink satellites. SpaceX is expanding its beta testing program and now has more than 10,000 users in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a February 3 filing to the Federal Communications Commission.

However, SpaceX faces renewed opposition from some organizations regarding the nearly $ 885.5 million in FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards it won In December. In a recent white paper, The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) argued that the FCC should carefully examine SpaceX’s plans to provide broadband Internet via satellite. These groups say bids from rural cooperatives for RDOF funding to provide broadband service were shut down by both SpaceX as well as fixed wireless networks.

“Although the provision of broadband service at the speeds promised by these applicants may appear to be viable, this service is currently in beta testing and commercially available on a limited basis in extremely limited areas, and there are still questions,” he said. the paper. “Bidding for experimental and untested LEO satellite service is a direct contradiction” to the rules of the RDOF program, it claimed.

“I’m really struggling with physics and economics” in satellite broadband, said Tim Bryan, CEO of NRTC, in a February 4 call with reporters. He claimed that there were “anecdotal reports” about people signing up for the Starlink beta but having trouble getting connections faster than four megabits per second, but did not elaborate.

“Starlink’s performance is not theoretical or experimental,” SpaceX noted in its February 3 FCC filing. The company said it had already demonstrated that it could meet or exceed key performance levels, including 100 megabits per second. Second data to customers and 20 megabits per. Second data from them, as well as latencies of 31 milliseconds or less.

Bryan said his group’s problem was how Starlink could scale up to serve a larger number of customers. “My concern is mostly not about the capacity of one or two users, but what happens when you reach 20, 30 or 40 or 50 thousand users,” he said.

“I have no doubt that the Starlink constellation could be successful in some areas and in some cases provide coverage over areas like the deep blue sea and places like that,” he said. “I’m struggling to see how it will reliably deliver 100 megabit service to the literally hundreds and thousands of customers in the census groups that it offered.”

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