SpaceX plans another trio of launches this weekend – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX plans another trio of launches this weekend – Spaceflight Now

File photo of a Falcon 9 rocket on pad 39A on December 8, 2021. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

SpaceX teams in Florida and California are preparing for three missions from three launch pads in three days, beginning Friday with a launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a Falcon 9 reusable booster flying for a record 13th time .

Friday’s flight will deploy another 53 Starlink internet satellites, followed by a launch Saturday from Vandenberg Space Force Base with a German military radar observation satellite, then another mission from Cape Canaveral early Sunday with a spacecraft commercial space messaging and data relay Globalstar.

Assuming weather and technical issues don’t delay any of the missions, the rapid launch schedule would mark SpaceX’s fastest flight streak since the company’s inception.

This weekend’s missions will be the 24th, 25th and 26th Falcon 9 rocket launches this year. This will match the total number of Falcon 9 launches SpaceX completed in 2020. Last year, SpaceX launched 31 Falcon 9 missions, and the company could approach 60 Falcon 9 missions this year.

SpaceX aims to fly an average of once every five days from one of its active Falcon launch pads.

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In order to save time, the company no longer conducts test firings before most of its launches, after seeing good performance from its reusable boosters mission after mission. Engineers are also streamlining booster refurbishment and inspections between flights, according to a report published this week by Aviation Week & Space Technology.

According to Aviation Week, SpaceX has qualified its Falcon 9 reusable boosters for at least 15 missions, up from the 10-mission target the company said when it launched the Block 5 booster — the latest iteration of the Falcon 9 — in 2018.

The magazine reported that SpaceX subjected thruster components to vibration testing at four times the fatigue life of what they would experience over 15 flights, giving engineers confidence that the rockets will continue to fly successfully. .

Another deployment flight for SpaceX’s Starlink internet network is next in line on the company’s schedule. A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift off from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 12:08 p.m. EDT (1608 GMT) Friday along with 53 other broadband relay satellites, bringing the total number of Starlink craft launched to more than 2,700.

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The Falcon 9 booster flying on the Starlink mission – tail number B1060 – has already flown 12 times. It debuted on June 30, 2020, with the launch of a US Space Force GPS navigation satellite. After launching for the 13th time on Friday, the booster will land on a SpaceX drone northeast of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean.

Friday’s weather forecast predicts a 90% chance of favorable conditions for takeoff from pad 39A.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will target a transfer orbit between 144 miles and 209 miles in altitude (232 by 337 kilometers). The deployment of the 53 flat satellites from the upper stage of the Falcon 9 is scheduled approximately 15 minutes after liftoff.

A Falcon 9 rocket on its launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in 2019. Credit: Gene Blevins/LA Daily News

Two more Falcon 9 rockets are scheduled to lift off later this weekend.

A Falcon 9 rocket is about to launch an Airbus-built German military radar surveillance satellite after 10 a.m. PDT (7 a.m. PDT; 1400 GMT) on Saturday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This mission will use a Falcon booster making its third fight. The first stage will return to Vandenberg for a land landing after sending the four-ton SARah 1 radar imaging satellite into orbit.

Another Falcon 9 is scheduled to lift off from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station around 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT) Sunday with a spare satellite for Globalstar’s commercial messaging and data relay constellation. The satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space in Italy, will be launched on a booster that will fly for the ninth time. The first stage will return to Earth to land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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