Preliminary schedules show that SpaceX – on top of plans for a record-breaking four-launch month – wants to add a Korean military satellite launch to
Preliminary schedules show that SpaceX – on top of plans for a record-breaking four-launch month – wants to add a Korean military satellite launch to the mix, meaning that the company could attempt five launches in five weeks.
SpaceX partially broke the news on June 9th when it opened media accreditation for the Korean military mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than (NET) July. LaunchPhotography.com was able to get even more specific, stating that South Korea’s ANASIS II communications satellite could lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket sometime in early July, while Teslarati has learned that the mission is tentatively scheduled to launch as soon as the second week of the month.
If SpaceX manages to launch Starlink-8, Starlink-9, and GPS III SV03 on time this month and can turn its Kennedy Space Center (KSC) LC-39A pad around in time for South Korea’s ANASIS II by July 8th, it’ll have sustained a weekly launch cadence for well over a month. The odds are heavily stacked against SpaceX’s favor but with Starlink V1 L8 on track for a June 12th launch and Starlink V1 L9 expedited from June 24th to June 22nd, the company actually has a shot at completing five launches in five weeks.
Anasis-2 in early July as well— MadeOnEarthFoundInSpace (@MadeOnEarthFou1) June 9, 2020
To achieve five launches in five weeks, SpaceX will have to dig deep into its rocket reusability expertise. (Richard Angle)
To achieve that feat, SpaceX will have to rely heavily on its small fleet of flight-proven Falcon 9 boosters and – barring a surprise – will need to smash its record for time between flights of the same rocket. On June 3rd, Falcon 9 booster B1049 successfully launched the 7th Starlink v1.0 mission while also becoming the first SpaceX rocket to complete five orbital-class launches and landings.
B1049 lifts off on SpaceX’s Starlink V1 L7 mission. (Richard Angle)Up next, Falcon 9 B1059 is scheduled to launch the 8th batch of 60 upgraded Starlink satellites as early as 5:42 am EDT (09:42 UTC) on June 12th – hopefully the booster’s third successful launch and landing in six months.
A long-exposure of Falcon 9 B1059’s CRS-20 launch (left) and landing (right), less than six miles apart. (Richard Angle)B1059 last touched down at LZ-1 on March 7th. (SpaceX)Third in line for the month of June, Starlink V1 L9 is scheduled to launch no earlier than (NET) 6:20 pm EDT (22:20 UTC) on June 22nd. Falcon 9 B1051.4 is likely assigned to the mission, meaning that SpaceX could launch a second booster for the fifth time less than three weeks after B1049 became the first to do so.
(Richard Angle)B1051 completed its fourth launch on April 22nd and returned to dry land three days later. (Richard Angle)Rounding out a potentially record-breaking June, new Falcon 9 booster B1060 could launch the US Air/Space Force’s third upgraded GPS III navigation satellite at 3:55 pm EDT (19:55 UTC) on June 30th, the last day of the month. Like all of the missions that preceded it, B1060 needs a drone ship to land on in the Atlantic Ocean, meaning that Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) and Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) will have to remain continually active throughout the month, taking turns on every other launch.
Pictured before leaving SpaceX’s Hawthorne, CA factory, this booster (likely B1060) is scheduled to launch an upgraded GPS III satellite late this month. (SpaceX)This leaves South Korea’s ANASIS II military communications satellite, currently scheduled to launch in early July – about a week after SpaceX’s GPS III SV03 mission. Excluding a new booster assigned to Crew Dragon’s next astronaut mission and Falcon Heavy side boosters B1052 and B1053, AWOL since their second and most recent launches almost a year ago, the five launches prior to ANASIS II will have technically used SpaceX’s entire booster fleet.
Short of a miraculous few-week turnaround of B1049, B1059, or B1051, the likeliest candidate for the mission is the same booster that launched astronauts for the first time ever on May 30th – B1058. To launch ANASIS II in early July, B1058 would need to crush B1056’s previous record of 62 days by a third or more to perform two orbital-class missions in just 40 days or less. All things considered, if SpaceX can pull off such an ambitious string of launches while pushing several envelopes of rocket reusability, the company will have demonstrated the ability to sustain the near-weekly launch cadence it will need to efficiently complete its Starlink satellite constellation.
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