SpaceX ready for another Starlink launch attempt: fourth time’s the charm?

Falcon 9 booster B1051 is scheduled to become the third SpaceX rocket to attempt to launch and land five times. (Richard Angle)

For the fourth time, SpaceX is about to (attempt to) launch 57 Starlink satellites and two Earth-imaging satellites, hopefully ending more than six weeks of delays.

SpaceX’s ninth launch of upgraded v1.0 Starlink satellites, the Starlink V1 L9 mission will also be the tenth Starlink launch overall, as well as the second time the company has hosted commercial payloads on one of its internet satellite launches. Following Starlink V1 L8’s successful rideshare debut with three Planet Skysat Earth imaging satellites on June 13th, Starlink V1 L9 will carry two similar but different Earth imaging satellites built for BlackSky by LeoStella.

To fit those two commercial spacecraft and the extra hardware needed to mount and deploy them, SpaceX has removed three satellites (versus two removed from V1 L8) from the normal 60-satellite stack. It’s unclear why the otherwise similar missions differ in that regard but either way, Starlink V1 L9 – hopefully for the last time – is scheduled to launch no earlier than 1:12am EDT (05:12 UTC) on Friday, August 7th.

As noted in several past launch and scrub articles on Teslarati, Starlink V1 L9 is also notable because of the Falcon 9 booster assigned to it.

“For Falcon 9 booster B1051, the Starlink V1 L9 mission will be its fifth launch, making it the third SpaceX rocket to fly on five separate orbital-class missions. If B1051 manages to successfully land aboard drone ship of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) some 630 km (~390 mi) off the coast of Florida, it will also become the second Falcon 9 booster to launch and land five times in a row.

A safe landing would see B1051 join the ranks of one other Falcon 9 booster – B1049 – which completed its fifth launch and landing on June 3rd, 2020. Back on March 14th, Falcon 9 booster B1048 technically became the first SpaceX rocket to successfully complete five orbital-class launches, although an extremely rare in-flight engine failure came close to prematurely ending the mission and fully precluded a successful landing.” — July 8th, 2020

B1051 stands vertical at Pad 39A around its first Starlink-9 launch attempt in late-June. (Richard Angle)
Falcon 9 B1049 became the first SpaceX booster to launch and land five times on June 3rd. (Richard Angle)

Originally expected as early as June 23rd, just 20 days after Falcon 9 B1049 became the first orbital-class booster to successfully launch and land five times, Falcon 9 B1051’s own fifth-flight milestone is now slated to occur a little more than two months later – still impressive by any account.

Beyond Starlink-9, SpaceX has another few Starlink missions tentatively slated to launch over the next 4-8 weeks, while Argentina’s SAOCOM 1B radar satellite launch recently slipped to late-August for mysterious reasons. As early as next month, SpaceX will also attempt its second NASA astronaut launch and first operational International Space Station (ISS) ferry mission just four months after a flawless astronaut launch debut.

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SpaceX ready for another Starlink launch attempt: fourth time’s the charm?
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