SpaceX appears to be on track to launch a trio of Falcon 9 rockets in as few as 36 hours, beginning with a Starlink mission on June 17th.
Enabled in part by delays to an unrelated Cargo Dragon launch that recently slipped from June 7th to July 11th, a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch Starlink 4-19 out of SpaceX’s leased NASA Kennedy Space Center LC-39A pad no earlier than (NET) 12:08 pm EDT (16:08 UTC) on Friday, June 17th. Beyond kicking off a very busy weekend for SpaceX, the otherwise ordinary mission will be significant for a number of reasons previously discussed on Teslarati.
“Starlink 4-19 will be the 100th reuse of a Falcon booster since the first in March 2017. If all goes well, it will also mark SpaceX’s 50th consecutively successful Falcon booster landing and Falcon 9’s 130th consecutively successful launch campaign – just four successes away from breaking the world record of 133 consecutive successes set by variants of Russia’s Soyuz/R-7 rocket.”
In addition to those milestones, SpaceX recently confirmed that it assigned Falcon 9 booster B1060 to the launch. Since its debut in June 2020, B1060 has supported three commercial launches (GPS III SV03, Turksat 5A, Transporter-2) and nine Starlink launches, helping to deliver around 160 metric tons (~350,000 lb) of satellites to orbit in two years. Starlink 4-19 will be its 13th launch – the first time any Falcon booster has attempted to surpass a dozen flights. Starlink 4-19’s payload will be another 53 Starlink V1.5 satellites weighing around 16 tons (~35,250 lb), likely raising the total number of working Starlink satellites in orbit above 2400.
Following Starlink 4-19, SpaceX confirmed on Thursday that another Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch a set of rideshare payloads and Germany’s SARah-1 radar satellite from Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB), California at 7:19 am PDT (14:19 UTC) on Saturday, June 18th. SpaceX won the contract to launch all three planned SARah satellites in 2013, at which point the first launch was expected to occur in 2018. The payloads are light enough that the mission’s unknown Falcon 9 booster will be able to boost back to shore and land just a thousand feet from where it lifted off after carrying them most of the way to space.
Just half a day after SARah-1, a third Falcon 9 rocket could lift off from LC-40 – SpaceX’s second East Coast pad – with a single spare Globalstar-2 communications satellite and one or more secret military satellites at 12:27 am EDT (04:27 UTC) on Sunday, June 19th. Falcon 9 booster B1061 is likely assigned to the launch and was spotted on a transporter – new, expendable upper stage already installed – on June 14th, probably heading from SpaceX’s main integration hangar to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s (CCSFS) LC-40 pad.
Given the difficult nature of orbital spaceflight, all three missions could run into minor delays, but if all fly as they are currently scheduled, SpaceX will have completed three orbital launches in 36 hours and 19 minutes. Starlink 4-19 and SARah-1 could also lift off just 10 hours apart.
SpaceX has two more missions tentatively scheduled in June. SES-22 could launch from the same pad as Globalstar-2 M087 (LC-40) as early as June 28th. While significantly less likely, NextSpaceflight.com suggests that SpaceX may also try to squeeze another Starlink launch – 4-21 – out of Pad 39A in late June. The margins for that opportunity are slim, however, as SpaceX will likely need to begin converting Pad 39A for Cargo Dragon’s July 11th launch by July 1st at the latest.
Tune in below around 11:55 am EDT to watch SpaceX’s record-breaking Starlink 4-19 launch live.