SpaceX plans to launch Transporter-7, its seventh dedicated small satellite ride share mission, from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Station in California on Wednesday, 2023-04-15 at 06:47 UTC (late Friday night at the launch site’s local time). The mission will launch 51 payloads for a variety of customers into a Sun-synchronous circular orbit at 550 km with an inclination of 97.5°. Falcon 9 first stage booster B1063 will be making its tenth flight after a turnaround of 56 days since its last flight, with landing near the launch site.
Here is the pre-launch preview from Everyday Astronaut.
The flight has been postponed by 24 hours to 06:48 UTC on 2023-04-12 due to weather at the launch site. I have updated the original post accordingly.
Due to weather, the flight has been postponed again to 2023-04-14 at 06:47 UTC. I have updated the main post to reflect this.
The launch attempt on 2023-04-14 was scrubbed less than a minute before the scheduled launch time due to weather violating launch criteria. They’ll try again on 2023-04-15 at 06:47 UTC (same Bat-time, same Bat-channel). I have updated the main post.
The flight was a complete success. To watch the launch starting one minute before liftoff, cue the replay to the 0:16:21 point. This was the first Falcon 9 launch to use a new, shorter engine nozzle on its single second stage Merlin 1D Vacuum engine. The shorter nozzle reduces manufacturing cost and allows increasing launch cadence, but at the cost of reduced second stage performance. It will be used only on missions which do not need the additional performance provided by the original larger nozzle. To accommodate the lower performance of the second stage, the first stage flies a modified trajectory in which the return to launch site booster recovery is done with a single-engine (instead of three) entry burn and a three-engine (instead of one) landing burn.
Stage separation starts at 0:19:40 in the replay and the smaller nozzle is immediately obvious once the second stage starts its burn. Booster landing is at 0:24:40. Starting at 1:20:00, during payload deployment, there are beautiful views of north Africa as the second stage overflies the Nile valley all the way to the Mediterranean with the Nile delta and Sinai peninsula visible toward the end. At 1:39:00 the second stage overflies the Greenland icecap.