The launch of Starlink by SpaceX marks the beginning of the company’s operations in 2022

The launch of Starlink by SpaceX marks the beginning of the company’s operations in 2022

After hitting a new high for launch performance in 2021, SpaceX kicked off 2022 with a Falcon 9 launch of a constellation of Starlink satellites on January 6th. At 4:49 p.m. Eastern, the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission called Starlink 4-5 by SpaceX. Its shipment of 49 Starlink satellites split from the upper stage 15.5 minutes after liftoff, although confirmation of the separation took almost an hour due to a lack of ground station coverage.

Nearly nine minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage settled on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas. The booster flew for the fourth time, having previously launched two GPS 3 satellites and the commercial Crew Dragon mission Inspiration4.

Instead of the northeastern trajectory employed for prior Starlink launches from Florida, the launch took an unexpected southeastern direction. It was the first of six planned for January on southern, or polar, paths, according to a Space Force officer.

In a January 4 release, Maj. Jonathan Szul, who serves as the director in charge of the operations for the First Range Operations Squadron at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, said, “The 2022 launch schedule is going to be very hectic, with up to five polar, and seven total launches, predicted for the month of January alone.” “While 3 polar missions have launched safely in the last year and a half, the Cape Canaveral facility has never seen five southern trajectory deployments in the same month.”

Beyond Starlink 4-5, he didn’t mention any further polar launches scheduled in January. Transporter-3, a dedicated rideshare Falcon 9 launch set for January 13, is one of them. Another is the deployment of a Cosmo-Skymed Second Generation radar imaging satellite for the Italian space agency ASI, which is due in late January on a Falcon 9 rocket. The other polar launches may be Starlink missions.

Because of varied airspace and maritime constraints that pilots and boaters may not be used to, Space Launch Delta 45, the Space Force unit which operates the Eastern Range, was concerned about the increased usage of southern trajectories. “There will be a greater potential impact to aviation and maritime travel around the southeast coast part of Florida because of the peculiar southerly trajectory,” Szul stated.

This is SpaceX’s first launch of 2022, as well as the year’s first orbital flight worldwide. In 2021, SpaceX set a business record with 31 orbital deployments, all on Falcon 9 rockets.

SpaceX has not set a target for 2022, but Tom Ochinero, who works as the vice president in charge of the commercial sales at SpaceX, said in a panel discussion at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week on December 13 that the company’s strategies for 2022 comprised a minimum of three crewed missions and five Falcon Heavy launches, the last of which was in 2019. “It’ll be more exciting next year,” he predicted for 2022.

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