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.
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
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.