SpaceX is set to begin its potentially busy May launch cadence with the launch of 56 V1.5 Starlink satellites from LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The launch is currently scheduled for May 4th at 3:31 AM ET (07:31 UTC).
This specific Falcon 9, B1069, has led a pretty interesting career for a Falcon 9. After successfully launching the CRS-24 resupply mission to the International Space Station, the booster had a rough landing on the droneship ‘Just Read the Instructions,’ which damaged multiple engine bells and landing legs. After a lengthy refurbishment of 250 days, the rocket returned to service to launch a batch of Starlink satellites in August 2022.
Following that successful return to flight, B1069 would go on to launch 4 more times between October 2022 and March 2023, most recently launching the SES 18 and 19 satellites. The early morning launch today will bring 56 version 1.5 Starlink satellites to orbit and increase the number of operational satellites to more than 3,400 and a total of more than 4,300 launched. SpaceX could potentially launch at least 5 batches of Starlink satellites this month, and as of right now, 3 of those launches are on range schedules between their Florida and California launch sites.
If SpaceX launches on time early tomorrow morning at 3:31 AM ET (07:31 UTC), the first stage of the booster will attempt to land on the drone ship ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ approximately eight-and-a-half minutes later. The 2nd stage carrying the 56 Starlink satellites will perform a 6-minute orbital insertion burn before coasting for approximately 46 minutes. The satellites are then set to separate from the 2nd stage one hour and 4 minutes into the flight to begin their journey to their operational orbit.
The early morning launch will mark 222 overall launches and 27 launches of the Falcon 9 in 2023, respectively. The current weather outlook has a 95% chance of acceptable weather, which is much appreciated after the last 2 launches faced many weather obstacles. Following this launch, pending any changes in the schedule, SpaceX will then shift focus to the West Coast with a Falcon 9 set to launch more Starlink satellites into orbit.