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SpaceX launches Starlink rideshare mission

The mission, with 52 Starlink satellites and two rideshare payloads (Capella Whitney 4 and Tyvak-0130), launched on a Falcon 9.
Credit: SpaceX webcast

A SpaceX Falcon 9 has launched another group of Starlink satellites on a mission that included two rideshare payloads.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The rocket’s first stage, making its eighth launch dating back to the Demo-2 commercial mission nearly a year ago, landed on a drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic.

The rocket’s primary payload, 52 Starlink satellites, separated from the rocket’s upper stage 1 hour and 38 minutes after liftoff. The launch brings the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to more than 1,600. This was the fourth Falcon 9 launch of Starlink satellites in 17 days, and the ninth Falcon 9 launch of Starlink satellites since the beginning of March.

SpaceX included two rideshare payloads on the rocket that were released from the upper stage about an hour after liftoff. One was the latest in a series of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellites for Capella Space. The company launched two other SAR satellites on Transporter-1, a SpaceX Falcon 9 dedicated rideshare mission in January. The other was Tyvak-0130, a satellite built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.

Following SpaceX’s on-time liftoff, NASA is planning to launch a small sounding rocket out of Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

NASA has a 40-minute window to launch the mission, which has been delayed several times. The experiment is designed to explore energy transport in space. The mission will study how energy and momentum are transported between areas of space that are magnetically connected.