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SpaceX’s second rocket recovery drone ship leaves port during Starlink launch

Pictured here during SpaceX's Starlink-12 recovery, OCISLY will likely pass right by JRTI as the drone ships essentially swap spots for the second Starlink launch in three days. (Richard Angle)

On October 18th, SpaceX’s second booster recovery ‘drone ship’ left Port Canaveral at the exact same time as a Falcon 9 rocket was launching 60 Starlink satellites a dozen miles to the north.

A remote point-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera recently installed by NASASpaceflight.com at the port quite literally captured drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) vacating its berth and a Falcon 9 lifting off on SpaceX’s Starlink-13 mission in the same frame. That one frame helps capture some of the sheer scale and spectacle of the reusable rocket infrastructure SpaceX has built from nothing in a few short years, as well as the feats of spaceflight that reusability has begun to enable.

In essence, in a single camera frame, viewers can watch a massive SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket weighing ~560 metric tons (~1.3 million lbs) and standing 70 meters (~230 ft) tall lift off on the way to a drone ship (Of Course I Still Love You) landing some 630 km (390 mi) downrange and, ultimately, to Earth orbit.

In the foreground, distant rocket exhaust likely glimmering on its deck, an entirely separate football-field-sized drone ship known as Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) begins a journey to an almost identical Atlantic Ocean landing zone to catch a different Falcon 9 rocket’s own Starlink launch and landing three days later.

Around eight minutes after liftoff, Starlink-13 Falcon 9 booster B1051 performed a flawless, bullseye landing on drone ship OCISLY, completing the rocket’s sixth orbital-class launch. If things went well during stage securing operations, OCISLY and JRTI could easily pass just a few miles (or less) apart as JRTI is towed out to – literally – the exact same landing zone.

Drone ship JRTI last supported Falcon 9’s July 20th ANASIS II launch and landing. (SpaceX)

Starlink-13 complete, SpaceX appears to be on track to launch another Starlink mission just three days later. Known as Starlink-14 or Starlink V1 L14, it will be the namesake 14th launch of operational v1.0 Starlink satellites, also marking SpaceX’s 13th Starlink launch in 2020 and 15th Starlink launch overall. Starlink-14 is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) no earlier than (NET) 12:36 pm EDT (16:36 UTC), Wednesday, October 21st. L-1d weather forecasts predict a 60% chance of favorable conditions.

As previously discussed on Teslarati, if Starlink-14 launches on schedule or is delayed by less than 72 hours, the Falcon 9 booster supporting it will break SpaceX’s (and thus the world’s) rocket turnaround record.

NextSpaceflight.com reports that SpaceX has assigned Falcon 9 booster B1060 to Starlink-14. If Starlink-14 lifts off on schedule on October 21st, B1060 will beat out B1058 for the crown of fastest booster turnaround, launching twice in just 48 days. Falcon 9 B1058 set the current world record when it beat NASA’s Space Shuttle (54 days) with a 51-day turnaround earlier this year.”

Teslarati.com – October 15th, 2020

Falcon 9 booster B1060 completed its first launch and landing on June 30th, followed by a second mission on September 3rd. (SpaceX)

As usual, SpaceX will host an official webcast typically scheduled to begin ~15 minutes before launch. Tune in around 12:20 pm EDT (16:20 UTC) to catch Falcon 9’s Starlink-14 launch and landing live.

SpaceX’s second rocket recovery drone ship leaves port during Starlink launch
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