SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral on Sunday, heading due south over the Atlantic Ocean on a trajectory hugging the east coast of Florida to deliver 143 small satellites into polar orbit.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket is poised for launch from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during a 22-minute launch window Sunday opening at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT).
The mission is a first-of-its-kind rideshare launch managed by SpaceX. There are 143 small satellites on-board — a record number of payloads for a single launch — from U.S. and international customers, including government and commercial operators. SpaceX calls the mission Transporter-1.
The Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage will perform two engine burns to place the 143 satellites into a near-circular sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 326 miles (525 kilometers), with an inclination of about 97.5 degrees to the equator.
The Falcon 9 first stage booster — designated B1058 — set to loft the Transporter-1 payloads has flown on four previous missions, beginning with the May 30 launch of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on the first test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with people on-board.
It also launched last year with the South Korean Anasis 2 military communications satellite, a SpaceX Starlink mission, and a Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station in December.
The timeline below outlines the launch sequence for the Falcon 9 flight on the Transporter-1 mission.
Data source: SpaceX
After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from pad 39A.
T+0:01:00: Mach 1
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Mach 1, the speed of sound, as the nine Merlin 1D engines provide more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust.
T+0:01:12: Max Q
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.
The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.
T+0:02:36: Stage 1 Separation
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
T+0:02:40: First Ignition of Second Stage
The second stage Merlin-Vacuum engine ignites for a six-minute burn to put the rocket and the Transporter-1 payloads into a preliminary parking orbit.
T+0:02:50: Fairing Jettison
The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.
T+0:07:47: Stage 1 Entry Burn Begins
A subset of the first stage’s Merlin 1D engines complete an entry burn to slow down for landing. A final landing burn will occur just before touchdown.
T+0:08:35: SECO 1
The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and the Transporter-1 payloads begin a coast phase scheduled to last 46 minutes before the second stage Merlin-Vacuum engine reignites.
T+0:09:42: Stage 1 Landing
The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster touches down on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
T+0:54:35: Second Ignition of Second Stage
The Falcon 9’s second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the Transporter-1 payloads into the proper orbit for deployment.
T+0:54:37: SECO 2
The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the Transporter-1 payloads into a 326-mile-high (525-kilometer) sun-synchronous orbit.
T+0:58:59: Payload Separation Sequence Begins
The 143 small satellite payloads on-board the Transporter-1 mission begin separating from the Falcon 9 rocket.
T+1:31:10: Payload Separation Sequence Ends
The last of the 143 small satellites separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of the Transporter-1 payload separation sequence:
- T+58:59: 36 Planet SuperDoves begin deployment
- T+59:00: 17 spacecraft aboard Kepler’s port begin deployment
- T+59:09: NASA’s V-R3x mission, 3 CubeSats aboard Maverick’s Mercury dispenser, begin deployment
- T+1:08:19: Nanoracks’ Eyries-1 mission’s 9 payloads begin deployment
- T+1:08:44: EXOport-2, with 28 spacecraft aboard, begins deployment
- T+1:13:58: Capella-3 deploys
- T+1:14:10: EXOport-1, with two ICEYE satellites aboard, begins deployment
- T+1:14:23: Spaceflight Inc. customer iQPS’s second SAR satellite, iQPs-2, deploys
- T+1:15:38: Capella-4 deploys
- T+1:16:10: Spaceflight Inc’s Sherpa-FX1 spacecraft deploys with 13 spacecraft on board
- T+1:16:28: D-Orbit’s Pulse mission deploys with 20 spacecraft on board
- T+1:31:10: 10 Starlink satellites deploy