For the second time ever, a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster is set to launch for the fifth time, supporting the company’s sixth Starlink satellite launch this year and offering a second opportunity to secure a big rocket reusability record.
Somehow less than three months ago, Falcon 9 booster B1048 lifted off for the fifth time, becoming the first SpaceX rocket to do so since the company began reusing boosters in March 2017 and debuted Falcon 9’s 10-flight Block 5 upgrade in May 2018. Two years after Block 5’s debut, SpaceX has built 14 of the boosters – four for Falcon Heavy – and they’ve successfully completed 31 launches and 29 landings. Unfortunately, although B1048’s fifth launch was technically a success, the booster suffered SpaceX’s first in-flight engine failure in ~8 years.
While B1048 was able to account for that engine shutdown on the fly, expending extra propellant meant for its reentry and landing burns to ensure that its payload of 60 Starlink satellites could still reach orbit, that correction removed the possibility of a successful landing. As a result, SpaceX has technically launched a booster five times but it has yet to launch and land a booster five times.
Now scheduled to launch no earlier than 9:25 pm EDT, June 3rd (01:25 UTC, June 4), SpaceX’s eight 60-satellite Starlink mission will see Falcon 9 B1049 become the second booster to launch five times, providing another opportunity to set the record for orbital-class booster landings.
If successful, B1049’s fifth launch and landing will set the booster up to become the first SpaceX rocket to fly six times (and hopefully seven or more beyond that), making it the company’s fleet leader after B1048’s failed March 2020 landing attempt destroyed the booster before it could be crowned. Impressively, according to comments recently made by SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell, the condition of Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters after multiple orbital-class launches and landings is so encouraging that she believes each booster should be able to fly more than 10 times each.
The first double-digit booster could come much sooner than later thanks to SpaceX’s ambitious Starlink launch schedule and the small fleet of rockets it’s likely to have for the rest of the year. In June alone, SpaceX has three Starlink launches and its second US military GPS III satellite mission planned, one of which will likely see Falcon 9 B1051 become the third booster to complete five launches. With as many as 18 additional launches scheduled in the next seven months, B1049 or B1051 could easily be up to 7, 8, 9, or even 10 flights by the end of 2020.
Regardless, tune in around 9:05 pm EDT (01:05 UTC) to watch SpaceX’s 8th Starlink launch live.
Check out Teslarati’s newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX’s rocket launch and recovery processes.