May 19, 2024

SpaceX Gears Up for Back-To-Back Launches While Continuing Starlink Deployments

Written by AiBot

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Jan 20, 2024

SpaceX has a busy launch schedule over the next week with missions planned from both coasts. The company is aiming to launch its Falcon 9 rocket on Friday evening from California while another Falcon 9 is prepared for blastoff Sunday night from Florida. Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to deploy batches of Starlink internet satellites to build out its growing constellation.

SpaceX Targets Friday and Sunday for Upcoming Launches

On Friday evening, SpaceX is hoping to finally get its Falcon 9 rocket off the ground from Vandenberg Space Force Base after multiple delays. The mission aims to deliver 51 Starlink satellites into orbit to add to the over 3,000 already deployed.

Then on Sunday night, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida carrying the Axiom-3 mission. This flight will send a crew of four private astronauts to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay.

Both launches have backup dates available if needed.

Delayed California Launch Now Set for Friday Night

SpaceX’s West Coast launch has faced multiple setbacks this week, getting delayed from Tuesday to Thursday and then to no-earlier-than Friday. The company cited the need for additional pre-flight checkouts on the rocket.

The Falcon 9 rocket tasked with lofting the next batch of Starlink satellites is now hoping to get airborne during a launch window opening at 5:12 p.m. PST Friday. It will fly from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg.

This will mark California’s first launch of 2024 when it finally does get underway.

Astronaut Mission Moves Forward for Sunday Liftoff

Meanwhile in Florida, teams are pressing forward with launch preparations for the Axiom-3 flight, SpaceX’s sixth crewed mission to the space station.

The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule for this flight arrived at Pad 39A earlier this week. After further testing and checkouts, no major issues have come up.

Liftoff is scheduled for 10:26 p.m. EST Sunday from Kennedy Space Center. The launch is instantaneous, meaning if it doesn’t get off the ground on time Sunday it will be postponed a day or more.

On board the human spaceflight will be commander Stephen Shaper, pilot Mark Pathy, and mission specialists Larry Connor and Eytan Stibbe. The Ax-3 astronauts will live aboard the ISS for about 10 days conducting scientific research in the microgravity environment.

SpaceX Keeps Up Regular Starlink Launches

In addition to its upcoming launches this weekend, SpaceX has maintained a steady pace of Starlink missions in recent weeks. The company launched Falcon 9 rockets from both coasts last Saturday, with one mission launching from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida that morning followed by a late night liftoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Those two flawless flights brought the total number of Starlink satellites launched to date to 3,236. SpaceX’s global internet network is already providing service, but thousands more satellites are planned.

Regular additional launches help SpaceX build out and improve coverage and speeds. The company has launched over 230 satellites already this year and aims to launch over 2,000 per year going forward.

Table: 2024 SpaceX Missions to Date

Date Launch Site Payload Outcome
Jan 7 Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Starlink Group 6-37 Success
Jan 14 Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Starlink Group 6-38 Success
Jan 14 Vandenberg Space Force Base Starlink Group 7-11 Success

High Launch Rate Required for Starlink Network Build-Out

SpaceX’s Starlink internet constellation could eventually contain over 40,000 satellites. Expanding internet connectivity, especially to remote and rural areas around the world, is the chief aim.

But the size and scale required for global, high-speed coverage necessitates rapid deployment of hundreds, even thousands, of satellites per year. SpaceX’s busy launch manifest and reuse of Falcon 9 boosters are key to making the plan feasible.

“Delivering reliable internet everywhere on Earth requires a fleet of low Earth orbit satellites covering the whole globe,” said SpaceX engineer Jessie Anderson following January 14’s launch from California.

Even with over 3,200 Starlink spacecraft launched already, SpaceX has only begun deploying Gen2 satellites which offer faster speeds and connectivity. So further build-out remains vital, with many more launches clearly still to come.

More SpaceX Missions Taking Shape

In addition to its forthcoming weekend launch doubleheader, SpaceX has several other notable missions in the pipeline.

The company could attempt the first orbital test flight of its next-generation Starship rocket in the coming weeks. While delays are possible and the exact timing remains in flux, the highly anticipated launch from Texas would be a major milestone as SpaceX works to develop Starship for future deep space voyages.

Also scheduled for next month, SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission to the ISS has an early March planned launch date. That flight will continue SpaceX’s catalog of sending astronauts to the orbital outpost as part of its multi-billion Commercial Crew contract with NASA.

Later in March, SpaceX also aims to launch its next cargo resupply mission to ISS, flying essential supplies and science gear.

And the company surely has many more Starlink launches in store over the months ahead as it presses forward with space-based broadband network expansion plans through 2024 and beyond.

So clearly, SpaceX’s launch cadence isn’t slowing down anytime soon. This weekend’s back-to-back missions on opposite coasts will kick things off, highlighting the beginning of what’s sure to be another extremely busy year for SpaceX.




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.

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