SpaceX set for second Falcon 9 launch in 60 hours

Two boosters, two drone ships, three days - round #3. (Richard Angle)

Update: After successfully docking Cargo Dragon to the ISS on June 5th, SpaceX is on track to complete its second Falcon 9 launch from the East Coast – this time carrying a commercial geostationary communications satellite – in less than 60 hours.

SiriusXM radio satellite SXM-8 is scheduled to liftoff on a Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than 12:26 am EDT (04:26 UTC) on Sunday, June 6. SpaceX’s official webcast will begin around 15 minutes prior.

For the third time ever, both of SpaceX’s East Coast drone ships have departed Port Canaveral to support two Falcon 9 launches and landings scheduled just a few days apart.

Originally scheduled to launch on June 1st and June 3rd, SpaceX’s SiriusXM SXM-8 and CRS-22 Cargo Dragon missions recently swapped positions after unknown issues delayed SiriusXM’s newest geostationary radio satellite. SpaceX’s second upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft is now scheduled to launch more than 3300 kg (7300 lb) of cargo – including new solar arrays – to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than (NET) 1:29 pm EDT (17:29 UTC) on Thursday, June 3rd.

If all goes to plan, another Falcon 9 rocket will then launch SiriusXM’s seven-ton (~15,500 lb) SXM-8 communications satellite at 12:26 am EDT (04:26 UTC) on Sunday, June 6th.

SpaceX drone ships Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) and Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) departed Port Canaveral four days apart on May 29th and June 2nd for the back-to-back launches and booster recoveries. CRS-22 and SXM-8 will be the fourth time ever that two SpaceX drone ships have needed to depart Port Canaveral less than four days apart.

After a nine-month journey of canal-crossing, inspections, and upgrades, drone ship JRTI joined OCISLY in Florida and supported its first East Coast recovery in June 2020. It took SpaceX around half a year to find its pace but the company used both drone ships for near-simultaneously launches and landings for the first time in January 2021, recovering two Falcon 9 boosters at sea in a little over four days.

(Richard Angle)

The same process was repeated in March when SpaceX launched two batches of 60 Starlink satellites in the space of 74 hours, recovering both boosters without issue. That particular success also marked the first time that two recovered Falcon 9 boosters simultaneously stood vertical in Port Canaveral. Barring launch delays or an extremely quick turnaround for CRS-22 booster B1067, CRS-22 and SXM-8 could easily precipitate the second appearance of two vertical SpaceX rockets in port.

Beyond the spectacle of simultaneous recoveries and their demonstration of just how aggressively SpaceX is pursuing its ambitious launch cadence goals in 2021, CRS-22 and SXM-8 will also set a new record for time between two SpaceX launches from the East Coast. If they fly on time, the missions will launch less than 59 hours – two and a half days – apart, beating the previous 74-hour record by 25%.

Eric Ralph: Eric Ralph is Teslarati's senior spaceflight reporter and has been covering the industry in some capacity for almost half a decade, largely spurred in 2016 by a trip to Mexico to watch Elon Musk reveal SpaceX's plans for Mars in person. Aside from spreading interest and excitement about spaceflight far and wide, his primary goal is to cover humanity's ongoing efforts to expand beyond Earth to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere.
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