Launches: SpaceX wraps up Starlink launches for August

Starlink launches for August: a success

SpaceX’s fifth and final Starlink launch for the month took flight at 05:40 UTC today, August 31, 2022 (10:40 p.m. PDT on August 30). The Starlink Group 3-4 mission launched 46 Starlink satellites atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in central California. Following stage separation, viewers watched the Falcon 9 first stage return to Earth on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You, stationed in the Pacific Ocean. This liftoff marked the private company’s 172nd Falcon 9 launch.

The Starlink launch came one day after the historic first-ever attempt by NASA to launch its mighty SLS rocket for the Artemis 1 moon mission. Artemis 1 is the first of three missions signaling a human return to the moon by the middle of this decade. Yesterday’s Artemis 1 launch was scrubbed, but NASA will try again on Saturday (September 3, 2022). Read more about Artemis 1.

Want a recap of the action? See the recorded live stream above.

Starlink launch on August 28

Just a few days prior at 03:41 UTC on August 28 (8:41 p.m. PDT on August 27), SpaceX launched 54 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral in Florida. You can watch it in the tweet below. That mission, Starlink Group 4-23, was also launched atop a Falcon 9. The launch was followed by SpaceX’s 64th consecutive landing: a new record!

Starlink launches in August 2022

Altogether, SpaceX had five planned Starlink launches this month.

Starlink Group 4-26: Tuesday • August 10, 2022 02:14 UTC
Falcon 9 Block 5 | Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA | SUCCESS

Starlink Group 3-3: Friday • August 12, 2022 21:40 UTC
Falcon 9 Block 5 | Vandenberg SFB, California, USA | SUCCESS

Starlink Group 4-27: Friday • August 19, 2022 19:21 UTC
Falcon 9 Block 5 | Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA | SUCCESS

Starlink Group 4-23: Sunday • August 28, 2022 3:41 UTC
Falcon 9 Block 5 | Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA | SUCCESS

Starlink Group 3-4: Wednesday • August 31, 2022 5:40 UTC
Falcon 9 Block 5 | Vandenberg SFB, California, USA | SUCCESS

Starlink: A thin white rocket on tail of flame launches straight up over clouds of steam.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket after launch. Image via Interesting Engineering/ SpaceX/ Twitter.

Growing numbers amid controversy

According to Wikipedia, as of July 2022 Starlink consists of over 3,000 mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit, which communicate with designated ground transceivers. And Starlink provides internet access to over 500,000 subscribers as of June 2022.

Love ’em or hate ’em, these Starlink satellites are part of SpaceX’s vision for a global internet communication satellite constellation. They deliver high-speed internet service worldwide, mainly to locations where ground-based internet is unreliable, unavailable, or expensive. The private company is well-known for launching batches back to back, several times a month, regularly lofting 60 satellites at a time.

SpaceX plans to build up to perhaps as many as 30,000 eventually.

Most skywatchers thought it was exciting to see the first few Starlink satellites traveling together in the night sky. But then more were launched, and then more. And astronomers began to worry.

Because Starlinks are bright, astronomers say they’re photobombing astronomical images. Therefore, they have the potential to interfere with the professional astronomical observations that have brought us our modern-day view of the cosmos. And although SpaceX has tried to address the issue, they remain far from what astronomers say is acceptable.

But, as yet, Starlink launches continue. And astronomy continues!

White diagonal lines across a black background. White dots of various sizes scattered across the image.
An image of the NGC 5353/4 galaxy group made with a telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona on the night of May 25, 2019. The diagonal lines running across the image are trails of reflected light left by more than 25 of the 60 Starlink satellites that had been recently launched, as they passed through the telescope’s field of view. This image serves as an illustration of the impact of reflections from the Starlink satellites. But it’s true that the density of these satellites is significantly higher in the days after launch (as seen here) and also that the satellites diminish in brightness as they reach their final orbital altitude. Image via Victoria Girgis/ Lowell Observatory.

Bottom line: SpaceX had five Starlink launches scheduled for the month of August 2022. The fifth one, Starlink Group 3-4, took flight at 05:40 UTC today, August 31, 2022, from Space Launch Complex 4 East at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in central California.

Via Space Launch Schedule

August 30, 2022

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