Breaking
May 27, 2024

SpaceX Closes Out Record-Breaking 2023 with Back-to-Back Falcon Launches

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Dec 30, 2023

SpaceX capped off a momentous 2023 by executing two Falcon rocket launches just hours apart late Thursday, setting several new benchmarks for rocket reusability in the process.

Falcon Heavy Lifts Off with Classified US Military Spaceplane

The action began when a Falcon Heavy lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A at 5:56 p.m. EST Thursday, lofting the U.S. military’s mysterious X-37B spaceplane on its seventh mission.

The autonomous, reusable X-37B conducted secretive experiments during prior flights lasting as long as 910 days. This mission, dubbed OTV-9 (Orbital Test Vehicle-9), will further test the spaceplane’s endurance limits, expanding the boundaries of reusable space technology.

Riding atop special adapter fixtures, the 29-foot-long (8.8 meters) robotic spaceplane shared its ride to orbit with a pair of rideshare satellites. The Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters nailed simultaneous landings back at Cape Canaveral around 8 minutes after liftoff, while the core booster touched down on a SpaceX droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX has now launched Falcon Heavy five times since the heavy-lift rocket’s debut in 2018. By recovering all three first-stage boosters, the company has reused Falcon Heavy side boosters for the first time, after fresh boosters were used on the rocket’s first four missions.

Less Than 3 Hours Later, Falcon 9 Sets New Rocket Reuse Record

Remarkably, the Falcon launch action continued into the evening, with SpaceX pulling off its fastest Falcon turnaround yet.

Just 2 hours and 49 minutes after the Falcon Heavy took flight, a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from neighboring Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 40 at 8:45 p.m. EST.

The successfully launch delivered another batch of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites into orbit. It also marked the first time a Falcon 9 booster has achieved 19 spaceflights.

Falcon 9 Booster B1060 Launch History
1. Starlink v1.0 L15: June 13, 2020
2. Starlink v1.0 L16: June 3, 2020
19. Starlink Group 6-36: Dec 29, 2023

Now having supported 19 missions in just 3.5 years, the B1060 booster further demonstrated Falcon 9’s reusability and reliability. The icing on the cake: it stuck another landing aboard the Just Read the Instructions droneship after dispatching the latest Starlinks.

SpaceX recovery teams will bring the history-making booster back to Port Canaveral in upcoming days. After inspections and refurbishment, it could fly again in 2024 if engineers clear it for a 20th launch.

Back-to-Back Feats Close Out SpaceX’s Record 2023

Executing two launches in one night was completely unheard of until SpaceX intentionally scheduled Thursday’s back-to-back missions.

The closely-timed Falcon flights capped off a banner year for SpaceX that shattered the annual launch records for any private launch provider in history.

With the OTV-9 and Starlink Group 6-36 missions now complete, SpaceX has executed 98 launches in 2023 – more than any other country or company.

The year’s accomplishments were fueled by SpaceX’s drive to reuse Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets multiple times. Frequent launch cadence supports the company’s Starlink internet constellation growth while also allowing SpaceX to fly more customer satellites.

By launching almost every week, SpaceX eased the notoriously long manifest backlogs caused by limited launch opportunities. The company’s Falcon fleet could enable improved global communications and data connectivity for scientific, commercial, and defense users.

What Comes Next for SpaceX?

After checking off so many milestones in 2023, SpaceX has set the stage for expanded capabilities on tap next year.

The company aims to launch its gargantuan Starship rocket into orbit for the first time. A successful test flight would pave the way for Starship to take over SpaceX’s launch manifest in the coming years, offering greater lift capacity for massive satellites and space station components.

Early 2024 could also see the first crewed flight of the commercial Dragon spacecraft, providing NASA with additional astronaut transport and ISS crew rotation flexibility beyond Crew Dragon.

With Starship’s inaugural launch on the horizon and the Dragon team pressing toward manned flight, SpaceX engineers have plenty of ground to cover following their extraordinarily prolific Falcon launch manifest this year.

AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post