SpaceX on track to launch eight Falcon 9 rockets in six weeks

(Richard Angle)

After yesterday’s successful Starlink-26 launch, SpaceX is now more than half of the way to completing eight orbital Falcon 9 launches in six weeks.

On April 23rd, after a one-day delay for bad weather, SpaceX launched four astronauts on a flight-proven Falcon 9 booster – and in a flight-proven Dragon capsule – in a historic spaceflight first. Six days later, the company aced its 24th operational Starlink launch, followed by two more 60-satellite Starlink missions on May 4th and May 9th – the latter of which marked the first time a single Falcon 9 booster completed ten orbital-class launches. Finally, Falcon 9 completed yet another Starlink launch on May 15th – this time carrying 52 flat-packed internet satellites and two third-party payloads as part of SpaceX’s fourth Starlink rideshare mission.

However, after launching 234 satellites, four astronauts, and five Falcon 9s – and recovering all five boosters – in 22 days, SpaceX is far from finished.

Some two weeks ago, the bulk of SpaceX’s June launch manifest had already more or less fallen into place with three specific dates in the first half of the month. A few days prior to Starlink-26’s successful launch, what is likely SpaceX’s fourth and final launch of May 2021 also came into focus.

Unsurprisingly another Starlink mission, Starlink-28 is now scheduled to launch no earlier than (NET) 2:59 pm EDT (18:59 UTC) on May 26th – 11 days after Starlink-26. Of note, SpaceX has chosen Falcon 9 booster B1063 to support the mission. That booster debuted in November 2020 at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) and was transported to Florida two months ago. Starlink-28 will be its second launch.

Up next, SiriusXM’s 7-ton SXM-8 radio satellite arrived at SpaceX’s payload integration facilities in Florida earlier this month and is scheduled to launch as early as 12:25 am EDT (4:25 UTC) on June 1st. The mission could slip a few days but is still likely to launch in early June.

Less than three days later, a rare new Falcon 9 booster could launch SpaceX’s second upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft – also new – on NASA’s CRS-22 space station resupply mission. Earlier today, NASA confirmed that the mission is on track to launch on June 3rd – likely around 1pm EDT (15:00 UTC).

If the weather, space station, and SpaceX’s rockets, spacecraft, and pad facilities cooperate, the completion of those three upcoming missions would mark eight successful Falcon 9 launches – carrying two Dragon spacecraft, four astronauts, and almost 300 satellites to orbit – in less than six weeks (41 days). If SpaceX manages that feat and averages one launch every five days, the company will have completed ~45% of its 2021 launches in ~26% of the year to date – a clear pattern of acceleration.

In the same period, a SpaceX Crew Dragon also safely returned four astronauts to Earth after the longest crewed spaceflight in US history (May 2nd) and the company successfully launched and landed a full-size Starship prototype for the first time (May 5th).

SpaceX on track to launch eight Falcon 9 rockets in six weeks
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