SpaceX has just completed their customary static test firing of the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry two demosats — Paz and Starlink. The launch has been scheduled for 17 February from the Vandenberg Air Force Base.
This scheduled launch comes right after their successful Falcon Heavy experiment, which saw Elon Musk fire up the world's most powerful rocket and put a car in orbit around the Sun. The Starlink launch will be the company's fourth in 2018 and SpaceX has promised this year to be its busiest one yet.
The Falcon 9 rocket will carry a 1350 kg Paz satellite and two 400 kg Starlink demo satellites into to a 514km Sun-Synchronous Orbit, reports Nasa Spaceflight. The launch will make use of a flight tested and proven core — core 1038 — which is expected to be lost to the sea or landed in the ocean as there are no landing legs seen attached to it, notes the report.
The static fire is one of the most important tests that is done before a launch, notes the report. It is the one that involves all the steps of an actual launch countdown, including fuelling up of the rocket and firing up all nine Merlin 1D engines.
Engine firing depends on the age of the boosters according to the report. Brand new engines are fired up for 3 seconds and used Falcon 9 rockets are put through a 7-second burn. The Falcon Heavy launch prep involved a 12-second test fire of all the rockets.
The test fire was conducted on Sunday (11 February), notes Nasa Spaceflight. SpaceX confirmed the news on their Twitter. Through the coming week, there will be a thorough analysis of the data from the test and only after scientists confirm that the engines performed as expected, the company will give the OK for launch on 17 February.
Core 1038 which will be used for this mission has previously delivered the Formosat 5 to a sun-synchronous orbit from the Vandenberg Air Force Base. The reentry and landing of this core was, at the time the hottest recorded landing of a SpaceX core when it touched down on the drone landing pad, Just Read the Instructions, in the Atlantic.
Starlink is the brainchild of Elon Musk who wants to create a "Global Broadband" and provide high-speed internet connectivity around the world through a constellation of thousands of satellites. If successful, the Starlink programme will provide internet to the entire planet at affordable rates. This was announced in 2015 as one way in which Musk can pay for Mars missions. The 17 February launch will carry two demosats for Starlink.