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May 29, 2024

SpaceX Gears Up for Back-To-Back Launches While Continuing Starship Testing

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Dec 24, 2023

SpaceX is finishing 2023 with a flurry of activity, with two Falcon 9 launches scheduled this weekend from California while Starship testing and development continues in Texas.

Falcon 9 Set for Rare Back-To-Back California Launches

On Saturday morning, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base carrying two satellites for the German military (BNN Breaking). The launch was originally planned for mid-December but was delayed several times.

The German radar reconnaissance satellites will allow Germany to replace their aging SARah satellites and restore their radar imaging and reconnaissance capabilities (Everyday Astronaut).

Mere hours after Saturday’s launch, SpaceX will launch another Falcon 9 from the nearby Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg, this time carrying the ViaSat-3 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit (KSBY).

Back-to-back launches only 24 hours apart will showcase SpaceX’s operational tempo and reuse capabilities, with both rockets expected to land on drone ships after launch. Weather is currently 90% favorable for the launches (KSBY).

Starship Plans Ambitious Test Campaign While Moving Forward with Launches

While their workhorse Falcon 9 takes care of business in California, SpaceX engineers in Texas are pressing forward with Starship testing and preparations for the first orbital test flight.

On Thursday, Starship Ship 24 conducted a 6-engine static fire test on the orbital launch mount in Boca Chica, showing steady progress towards a hoped-for launch attempt in January 2023.

CEO Elon Musk stated an ambitious 1-2 Starship launches per month goal for 2023 once operations get underway, which would eclipse their previous cadences.

Year Falcon Launches Starship Launches
2023 61 (projected) 12-24 (goal)
2022 61 0

To achieve Musk’s targets, simultaneous testing and operations will be key. While Ship 24 continues checkouts for an orbital attempt, Booster 7 and Ship 25 are expected to undergo testing at the suborbital pad for high-altitude test flights in the next few months. Further down the production line, Booster 9 and Ship 27-29 are in various stages of assembly.

This concurrent testing and operations strategy should allow SpaceX to rapidly increase flight rate and iterate design changes. 2023 will involve tremendous parallel development unseen in the early Falcon 9 days.

What Comes Next?

In the next week, expect SpaceX to be extremely busy with back-to-back Falcon 9 launches while the Eastern Range is quiet. Teams will be stretched thin but have proven capable of quick turnarounds before.

All eyes will remain fixed on Starship’s first orbital launch attempt NET January 2023. Success would be a historic milestone and open the doors to monthly launches in short order. But given the challenging technical hurdles still ahead, delays remain likely.

Either way, 2023 is shaping up to be the year SpaceX reaches escape velocity, launching astronauts on Falcon 9 and Dragons while finally proving full Starship reusability. If goals are met, it will be their biggest year ever – and set the stage for Mars.

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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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