SpaceX adds third StarLink launch to busy October manifest

SpaceX has added one more Starlink launch to its October manifesto and plans to support the mission with record-breaking Falcon 9 boosters.

Some media outlets have recently confirmed that SpaceX will attempt the 13th launch of the Starlink-13 – Operational V1.0 satellites and the 14th overall launch – not earlier than 8:25 a.m. EDT (12:25 UTC) on October 18. Two days later, reports that SpaceX intends to launch Starlink-14 in a few days, three days later, with the goal of launching EDT (16:36 UTC) on Wednesday, October 21 at 12:36 p.m. .

At the same time, the eighth launch of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy Rocket’s National Rick Onna Nissin Issis’s NRL-44 spy satellite is scheduled for 23rd October EDT (02:00 UTC). As a result, with the exception of two (now) rare instances of two back-to-back time-to-time launches, SpaceX and ULA have decided to re-create a butt head at Florida’s Cape Canaveral launch range.

Originally scheduled to launch in early June 2020, Delta IV Heavy’s NRL-44 launch slipped into August Gust, finally landing on August 26. Thus began a strange series of delays. Pad pressurelization systems were to blame for the first delay on 27 August Gust, followed by a rare next ignition projection on 29 August Gust. For Delta IV Heavy, such an abortion is necessary At least Several weeks of work and the subsequent attempt to launch the NROL-44 launch came on September 26, only to be dropped by issues with the pad’s navel “swing arm”. The weather made a second attempt on September 28, when a backup on September 29 was canceled due to a leak in the pad hydraulic system. Last but certainly not least, on September 30, Delta IV Heavy suffered another last-second abortion in T-7 seconds.

During all of this time, the ULA’s NROL-44 mission range took precedence, meaning that the ULA Air Force Wing is responsible for enforcing range safety and providing weather forecasts, until the ULA launch is complete or significantly delayed. Combined with the temperament environment, ULA’s series priority contributed to delays in the launch of several SpaceX Starlinks and GPS III SV04 in early September and early October. Now, until SpaceX launches Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 on schedule on October 18th and 21st October, Delta IV will be delayed by more than a day or two after taking the heavy stage.

Over the past few years, ULA’s Delta IV heavy rocket – now on its fifth-to-last mission – has been very temperamental. (ULA)
Before a few technical launches were delayed, the Falcon 9 Block 5 was largely free of delays caused by rockets. (Richard Angle)

Regardless of the uncertainty of the schedule and the possibility of delays, if SpaceX manages to successfully launch Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 in the next two or so weeks, the company will launch three Starlink missions a month for the first time in October. If the mission were not for Starlink, SpaceX would effectively build the second largest commercial satellite constellation in the world in less than 30 days.

In addition, reports that SpaceX has delivered the Falcon 9 Booster B1060 to Starlink-14. If Starlink-14 hits schedule on October 21st, the B1060 will beat the B1058 for a crown of rapid booster turnaround by launching twice in just 48 days. The Falcon 9B1058 set the current world record when it beat NASA’s space shuttle (54 days) earlier this year with a 51-day turnaround.

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