SpaceX StarLink booster launch

Starlink 4 | Falcon 9 Block 5

Lift off time
(Subject to change)
February 17, 2020 – 15:05 UTC | 10:05 EST
Mission Name and what it is
Starlink 4, (fourth operational launch)
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
(Who’s paying for this?)
Falcon 9 (Block 5) Serial Number B1056.4
Launch Location
Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at CCSFS, Florida
Payload mass
15,600 kg (~ 34,400 pounds)
Where are the satellites going?
Low Earth Orbit 550km (Initially 290 km)
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
Where will the first stage land?
621 km downrange aboard SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship Of Course I Still Love You
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
Yes, fairing recovery is expected (fairings were not recovered successfully)
Are these fairings new?
This will be the:
  • Shortest turnaround time of a booster (62 days)
  • 81st flight of a Falcon 9 
  • 50th booster landing (The booster missed the drone ship)
  • 32nd re-flight of a booster
  • 4th mission for SpaceX in 2020
Where to watch 
SpaceX Livestream

Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, will be streaming at T-30 minutes; come ask questions and join the conversation live!

If you happen to be in the area, here’s where you can watch in person!

Image by Geoff Barrett

What’s all this mean?

SpaceX will be launching 60 satellites on top of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. This will be the fourth operational launch of SpaceX’s near-global satellite constellation – Starlink, which aims to deliver a fast, low-latency broadband internet service to locations where access has previously been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable. SpaceX plans to offer service in North America by the end of 2020 and estimates that once complete, its venture will make $30-50 billion annually. The funds from which will, in turn, be used to finance its ambitious Mars program.

After boosting the second stage along with its payload towards orbit, the first stage will perform an entry burn to slow the vehicle down in preparation for atmospheric reentry. The booster will then land 621 km downrange aboard SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. SpaceX will also attempt to recover both fairing halves with their humorously named fairing catcher vessels: GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief. Interestingly, this will be the first Starlink mission where the satellites are deployed 14 minutes after liftoff, rather than the usual 61 minutes.

The thrice-flown booster supporting this mission (B1056.4) previously flew the CRS-17 and 18 International Space Station resupply missions in 2019. The booster made its third flight on December 16, 2019, launching JCSAT-18/Kacific-1 to geostationary transfer orbit. This mission will be the fastest turnaround of a booster, breaking the current record of 71 days, held by CRS-15.

To achieve initial coverage, SpaceX plans to form a net of 12,000 satellites, which will operate in conjunction with ground stations, akin to a mesh network. Furthermore, the company recently filed for FCC permission on an additional 30,000 spacecraft, which, if granted, could see the constellation amount to a lucrative 42,000. This would octuple the number of operational satellites in earth orbit, further raising concerns regarding the constellations effect on the night sky and earth-based astronomy. Such mega-constellations have only recently been made possible with the advent of reusable rocketry, pioneered by SpaceX. For more information on Starlink, I recommend watching the Real Engineering video listed below.

Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, will be streaming this launch, starting at T-30 minutes; come ask questions and join the conversation live! If you want the best way to know when a launch is happening, I suggest keeping an eye on Prelaunch Previews and downloading the Next Spaceflight mobile app to stay in the know.

1 comment
  1. Hi Alex.

    Greetings from Denmark. I stumbled over this website by chance, and I wonder, if you should not update those pages with the actual facts from the rocket flights. The Falcon X B1056.4 crashed in the ocean, and the fairings recovery did not go well either. And you must update the next two flights number of attempted landings by minus one, since recovery of booster nr. 50 did not happened yet.

    About the fairing recovery concept, parachuting into a net on a moving ship, that is tricky to say the least. By my humble opinion, they should release the fairing right over the net, when they are aligned perfectly over each other. All they need is a winch with a brake release and 100 meters of rope between the parachute and the fairing. That should be easier to do.

    Alternatively they could drop the fairing on a huge stack of cardboard boxes under the net, just like stuntmen do, when they jump of buildings. I have seen a stuntman crash land like that in a “Look Mom. No parachute” stunt i a really huge stack on a field in England I believe.

    With regards Johnny Nielsen. Uncertified traffic engineer.

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