Barring delays, SpaceX plans to launch a new batch of Starlink satellites and hop a Starship prototype for the second time ever within the same 12-hour period today.
Originally expected to be paired with yet another Falcon 9 launch on August 30th, SpaceX’s first three-flight day was prevented by bad weather both in Florida and Texas. The company’s SAOCOM 1B mission, however, managed to thread the needle through storm cells, launching on schedule around 7pm – the first United States’ first East Coast polar launch in half a century.
Initially rescheduled for September 1st, SpaceX’s Starlink-11 (12th overall, 11th v1.0) launch was delayed again to September 3rd to allow “additional time for data review.” The mission is now scheduled to launch no earlier than 8:46 am EDT (UTC-4) on Thursday, September 3rd. Simultaneously, on August 30th, SpaceX’s sixth full-scale Starship prototype made it less than a minute away from liftoff before its hop test was called off – the trigger likely being high winds.
While unrelated to Florida’s own bad weather, to avoid mediocre conditions expected over the next few days, SpaceX also pushed Starship SN6’s hop debut to Wednesday, September 3rd soon after the Sunday abort. That hop is expected to be identical to Starship SN5’s spectacular August 4th debut – the first flight of any full-scale prototype.
While neither ship has a nosecone or aerodynamic control surfaces (i.e. flaps) installed, their propellant tanks and engine section – unlike Starhopper – are effectively the same as SpaceX’s orbital Starship design. Refinements and upgrades are all but guaranteed as SpaceX continues an ambitious program of prototype flight tests, but the tanks and engine sections of future operational Starships will likely look quite similar to those flying on SN5 and SN6.
Starship SN6’s hop debut is now scheduled to occur during an 8am to 8pm CDT (UTC-5) test this Thursday. Meanwhile, SpaceX’s Starlink-11 Falcon 9 mission will lift off less than half an hour before Starship’s hop window opens, although Starlink windows are instantaneous and require at least a 24-hour scrub in the event of any weather or technical delays. Based on past hop and static fire tests, SN6 is unlikely to lift off before 11am but could theoretically launch anytime within that 12-hour window.
After launch, Falcon 9 booster B1060 will attempt its second drone ship landing aboard Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY), while Starship SN6 will attempt to land just a few hundred feet east of its Boca Chica pad. SpaceX will broadcast a hosted webcast of the Starlink-11 launch beginning around 15 minutes before liftoff, while Starship SN6’s second hop attempt can be viewed via unofficial webcasts from LabPadre, NASASpaceflight, and others.
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