SpaceX launches two advanced satellites for observing Earth

SpaceX successfully launched two next-generation Earth observation satellites from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 11:36 am PT. These two satellites, built by Maxar Technologies, are the first of six currently planned to replace older observation satellites. They were deployed into a Sun-synchronous orbit at around 13 and 16 minutes after lift-off, which was later confirmed by SpaceX once the Falcon 9 second stage came back into range of a ground station.

SpaceX will also launch the next four satellites in the coming months as Maxar continues to replace older generation satellites. The four will launch from Florida, providing Maxar access to multiple orbit types and better coverage of the globe. SpaceX achieved its 20th launch with the Falcon 9 that launched this mission, using Booster 1061, which was able to perform a boost backburn and touchdown at Landing Zone 4 due to a lightweight payload.

Booster 1061 has previously launched several missions, including 8 humans, an ISS resupply mission, a NASA x-ray space observatory, 2 telecommunication missions, 2 Transporter rideshare missions, an Israeli ISI EROS C-3 recon satellite, the Korea 425 recon satellite, and 9 Starlink missions. The Falcon 9’s first stage landed on Landing Zone 4, completing this booster’s 20th launch and landing. The second stage featured the “stubby nozzle,” which SpaceX uses when it does not need the full performance of a full-sized vacuum nozzle.

Additionally, SpaceX used flight-proven fairings for this mission, marking the 16th flight for one of the halves. Notably, the payloads featured highly sensitive optics, and SpaceX is now able to refurbish these fairings to prevent contamination of the payloads. SpaceX is now preparing for another launch of 23 Starlink and continues to expand its mission capabilities.

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