Falcon 9, Starlink

Nilesat-301 | Falcon 9 Block 5

Lift Off Time
June 8, 2022 – 21:04 UTC | 17:04 EDT
Mission Name
Nilesat-301, a communication satellite
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
(Who paid for this?)
Falcon 9 Block 5, B1062-7; 39.98 day turnaround time
Launch Location
Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA
Payload mass
~ 4,100 kg (9,000 lb)
Where did the satellites go?
Geostationary Earth Orbit, 7° West Slot (Initial Orbit: Supersynchronous GTO-1600)
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Where did the first stage land?
~687 km downrange on Just Read the Instructions

Tug: Bob; Support: Bob
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
The fairing halves were recovered from the water ~822 km downrange by Bob
Were these fairings new?
This was the:
– Furthest downrange recovery for a Falcon 9, ever (Previous Record: 681 km)
– 157th Falcon 9 launch
– 95th Falcon 9 flight with a flight proven booster
– 99th re-flight of a booster
– 21st re-flight of a booster in 2022
– 123rd booster landing
– 49th consecutive landing (a record)
– 23rd launch for SpaceX in 2022
– 88th SpaceX launch from SLC-40
– 63rd orbital launch attempt of 2022
(61st successful)
Where to watch
Official Replay

How Did It Go?

SpaceX successfully launched the Nilesat-301 satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) atop the Falcon 9 Block 5. The vehicle lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and placed the payload into a Supersynchronous GTO-1600; this means the payload will only need 1,600 m/s of delta V to raise its orbit into its operational 7° West GEO slot.

What Is Nilesat-301?

Built by Thales Alenia Space, the Nilesat-301 satellite is a follow up to the Nilesat-101, Nilesat-102, Nilesat-103, and Nilesat-201 satellites. This geostationary satellite constellation provides television, radio, and data transmission to Northern Africa and the Middle East. Nilesat-301 will replace the aging Nilesat-201 satellite, which was launched in 2010 atop an Ariane 5.

The Nilesat-301 satellite has a launch mass of 4,100 kg and an on orbit mass of ~3,900 kg and is based on the Spacebus-4000B2 satellite bus. Attached to this bus are 32 Ku-band transponders and 6 Ka-band transponders. These are powered by two large deployable solar arrays, and batteries to hold power through the orbital night.

Nilesat-301 is equipped with an S400 engine which runs on monomethylhydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide. The S400 creates ~420 newtons of thrust in a vacuum with a specific impulse of 3,150 m/s (321 seconds).

Nilesat-301 render
Nilesat-301 (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

What Is The Falcon 9 Block 5?

The Falcon 9 Block 5 is SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle. The vehicle consists of a reusable first stage, an expendable second stage, and, when in payload configuration, a pair of reusable fairing halves.

First Stage

The Falcon 9 first stage contains 9 Merlin 1D+ sea level engines. Each engine uses an open gas generator cycle and runs on RP-1 and liquid oxygen (LOx). Each engine produces 845 kN of thrust at sea level, with a specific impulse (ISP) of 285 seconds, and 934 kN in a vacuum with an ISP of 313 seconds. Due to the powerful nature of the engine, and the large amount of them, the Falcon 9 first stage is able to lose an engine right off the pad, or up to two later in flight, and be able to successfully place the payload into orbit.

The Merlin engines are ignited by triethylaluminum and triethylborane (TEA-TEB), which instantaneously burst into flames when mixed in the presence of oxygen. During static fire and launch the TEA-TEB is provided by the ground service equipment. However, as the Falcon 9 first stage is able to propulsively land, three of the Merlin engines (E1, E5, and E9) contain TEA-TEB canisters to relight for the boost back, reentry, and landing burns.

Second Stage

The Falcon 9 second stage is the only expendable part of the Falcon 9. It contains a singular MVacD engine that produces 992 kN of thrust and an ISP of 348 seconds. The second stage is capable of doing several burns, allowing the Falcon 9 to put payloads in several different orbits.

For missions with many burns and/or long coasts between burns, the second stage is able to be equipped with a mission extension package. When the second stage has this package it has a grey strip, which helps keep the RP-1 warm, an increased number of composite-overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB.

falcon 9 block 5, launch
Falcon 9 Block 5 launching on the Starlink V1.0 L27 mission (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 Booster

The booster that supported the Nilesast-301 mission is B1062, which had supported six previous flights. Hence, its designation for the Nilesat-301 mission was B1062-7; this changed to B1062-8 upon successful landing.

B1062’s missionsLaunch Date (UTC)Turnaround Time (Days)
GPS Block III SV04November 5, 2020 23:24N/A
GPS Block III SV05June 17, 2021 16:09223.70
Inspiration4September 16, 2021 0:0290.33
Starlink Group 4-5January 6, 2022 21:49112.91
Ax-1April 8, 2022 15:1791.73
Starlink Group 4-16April 29, 2022 21:2721.26
Nilesat-301June 8, 2022 21:0439.98

Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 conducted two burns. These burns softly touched down the booster on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship Just Read the Instructions.

falcon 9 booster, landing, drone ship
Falcon 9 landing on Of Course I Still Love You after launching Bob and Doug (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 Fairings

The Falcon 9’s fairing consists of two dissimilar reusable halves. The first half (the half that faces away from the transport erector) is called the active half, and houses the pneumatics for the separation system. The other fairing half is called the passive half. As the name implies, this half plays a purely passive role in the fairing separation process, as it relies on the pneumatics from the active half.

Both fairing halves are equipped with cold gas thrusters and a parafoil which are used to softly touch down the fairing half in the ocean. SpaceX used to attempt to catch the fairing halves, however, at the end of 2020 this program was canceled due to safety risks and a low success rate. On Nilesat-301, SpaceX attempted to recover the fairing halves from the water with their recovery vessel Bob.

In 2021, SpaceX started flying a new version of the Falcon 9 fairing. The new “upgraded” version has vents only at the top of each fairing half, by the gap between the halves, whereas the old version had vents placed spread equidistantly around the base of the fairing. Moving the vents decreases the chance of water getting into the fairing, making the chance of a successful scoop significantly higher.

All times are approximate

00:38:00SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
00:35:00RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
00:35:001st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
00:16:002nd stage LOX loading underway
00:07:00Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
00:01:00Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
00:01:00Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
00:00:45SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
00:00:03Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00Falcon 9 liftoff

Nilesat-301 Launch, Landing, and Deployment

All times are approximate

00:01:12Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:341st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:371st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:452nd stage engine starts
00:03:24Fairing deployment
00:06:281st stage entry burn begins
00:06:501st stage entry burn complete
00:08:052nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:08:191st stage landing burn begins
00:08:421st stage landing
00:26:562nd stage engine restarts
00:28:022nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
00:33:13Nilesat 301 deployment

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