SpaceX has started a busy year with the launch of the Turkish relay station
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket came to life and flew away from Cape Canaveral on Thursday evening. She put a Turkish communications satellite into orbit to start another busy year for the California missile company.
The launch set the stage for the return of an unpiloted Dragon cargo ship to Earth Monday, carrying research samples and equipment from the International Space Station and an alleged test flight of a prototype of a Starship upper stage from SpaceX’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.
Last year, SpaceX launched 26 Falcon 9 rockets, including two piloted Crew Dragon missions that brought six astronauts to the International Space Station, two non-piloted Dragon cargo ships to the laboratory, and 14 Starlink flights that used 833 internet relays Satellites were put into orbit.
The company is expected to attempt 40 or more Falcon 9 flights in 2021, including another NASA Crew Dragon flight to the station and possibly a fully commercial flight with four non-NASA astronauts.
The company started its launch campaign in 2021 at 9:15 p.m. ET Thursday when the nine Merlin engines that power a previously flown first stage of the Falcon 9 came to life at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
The 229-foot two-stage rocket, which produced 1.7 million pounds of thrust, shot down from pad 40 and climbed east, shooting through mostly clear skies and putting on a spectacular show for residents and tourists alike.
The first leg, which was its fourth flight, lifted the rocket out of the lower atmosphere before falling off and landing on a SpaceX drone stationed several hundred miles from Cape Canaveral. It was SpaceX’s 71st successful booster recovery and the 49th on an offshore drone ship.
In the second phase, the ascent into space continued and two single engines fired before the Turksat 5A communications satellite was released 33 minutes after launch.
The 7,500 pound relay station, built by Airbus Defense and Space for Turksat, has been placed in a highly elliptical “transfer” orbit and will deploy plasma engines on board over the next four months to its operating altitude 22,300 miles above the equator to reach.
The satellite’s 42 transponders, orbiting in step with the Earth’s rotation, will provide commercial broadband data routing and direct television services in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. A second satellite, Turksat 5B, is due to be launched later this year.
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