SpaceX is counting down to what could be a rocket launch hat trick this weekend.
The private spaceflight company aims to launch three rockets from three different launch pads in three days beginning Friday, June 17, when SpaceX launches 53 Starlink internet satellites into orbit from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A launch from Space Force Base Vandenberg in California will follow Saturday morning to orbit a radar satellite for the German military, with the third mission returning to Florida to launch a commercial communications satellite from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral.
If successful, the triple play launch could mark SpaceX’s tightest consecutive flights to date after the company completed three missions between Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 earlier this year. SpaceX is also aiming to set a new record with one of the flights.
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The Falcon 9 rocket launched on Friday’s mission, called Starlink 4-19, will make its 13th flight – the best of any Falcon 9 – when it launches from Pad 39A. Liftoff is scheduled for 12:08 a.m. EDT (4:08 p.m. GMT). The Falcon 9 first stage flew nine Starlink missions and four commercial flights, SpaceX said in a mission description. (opens in a new tab).
When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the latest version of his workhorse Falcon 9, the Block 5 variant, he said the booster was designed for up to 10 flights. According to a June 10 report from Aviation Week (opens in a new tab), the company now aims to fly Falcon 9 rockets at least 15 times before retiring them. SpaceX currently has 21 Falcon rockets in its stable, the magazine reported.
Jessica Jensen, SpaceX’s vice president of operations and customer integration, told Aviation Week’s Irene Klotz (opens in a new tab) Falcon 9 flight components are now tested up to four times their fatigue life for 15 missions.
If Friday’s launch goes smoothly, SpaceX will turn to its launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California to launch SARah 1, a synthetic aperture radar remote sensing satellite for the German military built by Airbus. Liftoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT (2 p.m. GMT) on Saturday, June 18.
“SARah is a new operational reconnaissance system consisting of several satellites and a ground segment, which was developed on behalf of the German Bundeswehr,” Airbus wrote in a statement. (opens in a new tab). “As a successor system, it replaces the SAR-Lupe system currently in service and offers significantly improved system capabilities and performance.”
Once SARah 1 is in orbit, SpaceX’s attention will turn to Florida, where the company hopes to launch the Globalstar FM15 communications satellite for Globalstar, according to Spaceflight Now. (opens in a new tab). This mission will lift off from SpaceX’s pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 12:30 a.m. EDT (04:30 GMT) on Sunday, June 19.
Globalstar FM15 is a spare satellite for Globalstar’s network of messaging and data relay satellites, Spaceflight Now reported. (opens in a new tab).
You’ll be able to watch SpaceX’s next three launches on Space.com at launch. SpaceX is expected to broadcast live webcasts about 10 minutes before liftoff.