SpaceX to launch military communications satellites

Falcon 9 awaits launch at SLC-4E (Credit SpaceX)

Update 4:06 PM 8/31: SpaceX stood down from launch due to an issue on engine #4. The next launch opportunity is Friday September 1st at 7:26 a.m. PT (14:26 UTC).

SpaceX is targeting the launch of the 2nd Tranche 0 mission for the Space Development Agency on August 31st at 7:26 a.m. PT (14:26 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The Tranche 0, Flight 2 mission features 13 payloads that will be deployed into a Polar Orbit and, as the mission name implies, is the 2nd flight of this small satellite constellation. The Tranche 1 swarm is scheduled for late 2024.

The Space Development Agency is a part of the United States Department of Defense that focuses on space-based communications with U.S. warfighters around the globe. The Tranche 0 group will feature 28 total satellites, with 10 having been previously launched by a Falcon 9 in April 2023, and 2 of those satellites were built by SpaceX, with the other 8 being built by York Space Systems.

SpaceX won a contract worth $149 million back in October 2020 to build 4 satellites to track missile launches. The satellites are based on the company’s Starlink satellite bus, and this is the first time SpaceX has won a contract to build a satellite for the U.S. Government. L3Harris also won a contract worth $193.5 million to build 4 similar satellites.

Tomorrow morning’s launch will feature 10 Lockheed Martin-built satellites, and as of the time of this article, it is unknown if it will host the other SpaceX-built satellites or the L3Harris satellites.

The Falcon 9 providing the ride to space for these payloads is Booster 1063. B1063 will be flying for the 13th time, having previously supported 8 Starlink missions, NASA’s DART mission, ESA’s Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich mission, Transporter 7 mission, and the Iridium-9/OneWeb Flight 19 mission.

Following the first phase of flight, the Falcon 9 will perform a boostback burn and return for a landing at Landing Zone 4, just 1,400 feet from where it took off minutes before.

SpaceX will begin its webcast 15 minutes before the scheduled launch time.

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SpaceX to launch military communications satellites
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