SpaceX fires Falcon 9 rockets hours apart for consecutive launches

SpaceX has fired two separate Falcon 9 rockets at two separate Florida launch pads in less than 16 hours before consecutive launches for Starlink and the U.S. Army.

At around 6:30 p.m. local on June 24, SpaceX successfully fired static Falcon 9 B1051 as one of the last steps before the fifth booster launch, making it the third SpaceX rocket to reach that five-flight milestone in solo. three months. B1051.4 just missed SpaceX’s booster response record, falling just a few days below the current record of 62 days after some minor delays. Originally slated to launch as early as June 22, the ninth batch of Starlink v1.0 satellites (Starlink V1 L9 or Starlink-9) is now slated to launch no earlier than (NET) 4:18 pm EDT (20:18 UTC) on Friday June 26.

Just over fifteen hours after the apparently successful static fire of B1051 (there was no confirmation from SpaceX’s tweet for the first time) at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A (Pad 39A), the new Falcon 9 B1060 booster performed its own test. ignition on SpaceX platform LC-40 separate from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). SpaceX confirmed that that static fire was successful launching the new Falcon 9 rocket to launch the third enhanced US Army GPS satellite (GPS III SV03) no earlier than (NET) 3:56 pm EDT (19:56 UTC ) Tuesday June 30.

If successful, Starlink-9 will be the third Falcon 9 Booster B1051 release in just five months. (Richard Angle)
If successful, the B1060’s first launch and landing should set it up for a long and productive launch life. (SpaceX)

If SpaceX manages to complete the Starlink-9 and GPS III SV03 missions on time, June 2020 will be the company’s first month of four launches. Even if the last US military mission is delayed to July 3 or 4, SpaceX will still have technically completed four launches in a month of days (30-31). Normally, the odds of the second in a pair of consecutive casts being delayed would be quite high, since any delay in the first mission would inherently go to follow up. For SpaceX, that probability has more than doubled due to the need for the availability of unmanned vessels for backup recovery.

SpaceX recently completed two East Coast launches in just four days, launching the first Crew Dragon and Starlink-8 astronaut mission on May 30 and June 4. (Richard Angle)

However, SpaceX debuted a second East Coast Unmanned Ship – Just Read Instructions (JRTI) on June 3, supplementing the Unmanned Ship Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) to double the maritime recovery capacity of the company on the east coast. Previously stationed at the Port of Los Angeles to support SpaceX launches from California, the West Coast manifesto quickly dried up, making the movement of JRTI drones eastward almost inevitable.

In addition to having a second drone ship available for booster recoveries only days or even hours apart, SpaceX also recently began pushing the limits of its launch capability on the East Coast by launching just days away from its two Florida separate platforms. While the occasional launch of LC-40 and Pad 39A is unprecedented, SpaceX appears to be determined to nutritious it is launched from each pad every 10-20 days, more or less. As such, SpaceX’s Starlink-9 and GPS III SV03 missions will launch from separate pads. and land on separate drones.

Starlink-8 was SpaceX’s first internal ride-sharing mission. (SpaceX)

Leaving cadence ambitions aside, Starlink-9 and GPS III SV03 are also important missions for their own reasons. First, Starlink-9 will follow in the footsteps of SpaceX’s successful launch of Starlink-8 on June 13 to become Starlink’s second ride-sharing mission, sending two BlackSky imaging satellites into orbit along with 57 Starlink v1.0 satellites. . The fact that the B1051 booster has nearly broken SpaceX’s rocket reuse record also suggests that the company already relies on the flight capabilities of Falcon 9 boosters in its fifth launch.

Meanwhile, the GPS III SV03 is special because, unlike SpaceX’s first launch of the GPS III SV01 in December 2018, the US (Space) Air Force will allow the Falcon 9’s B1060 booster to attempt a landing. of a drone. In SpaceX’s first GPS III release, the USAF more or less arbitrarily limited the available performance of Falcon 9 to leave extreme safety margins in the apparent case that one or more booster engines failed during launch. As a result, Falcon 9 B1054 became the first highly reusable Block 5 booster to intentionally launch just once. For B1060, the booster will have a chance for recovery and a long and productive life of 5-10 + more pitches. A successful landing could also give the U.S. Army its first opportunity to certify and reuse a Falcon 9 reinforcement in an operational military satellite launch.

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