September 26, 2023

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SpaceX eyes 60th launch this year with Starlink mission, one step away from setting record – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX eyes 60th launch this year with Starlink mission, one step away from setting record – Spaceflight Now

Updated 7:52 PM EST: SpaceX has adjusted the T-0 liftoff to 9:31 PM EDT (0131 UTC). After that point, SpaceX has three additional launch opportunities to launch the Starlink 6-13 mission on Thursday.

Updated at 7:05 PM EST: SpaceX has postponed the T-0 launch to 8:40 PM EDT (0040 UTC on September 1). SpaceX noted in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that its launch teams were monitoring Hurricane Idalia’s impacts on the Cape.

Original story:

SpaceX is preparing a Falcon 9 rocket for what will be its 60th orbital launch this year. The Starlink Group 6-13 mission is targeting liftoff no later than 7:52 PM EDT (2352 UTC) on Thursday, August 31, with a constellation of 22 Starlink V2 Mini satellites headed to low Earth orbit.

With this launch and another about to launch from California, SpaceX is on the cusp of breaking the record it set in 2022 with 61 missions.

According to the analytics company Press TechSpaceX continues to dominate the launch market. In the first two quarters of the year, SpaceX achieved 43 orbital launches. That’s just ten launches out of 53 launches from every other launch provider around the world during the same time frame.

In other words, SpaceX launched 447,209 kg of spacecraft mass between the first two quarters. The closest launch pad was the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which launched 47,034 kg in the same period.

A Falcon 9 rocket is ready for launch at Cape Canaveral in what could be SpaceX’s 60th orbital launch of the year. Image: Spaceflight Now.

SpaceX was poised to tie its 2022 launch record with a mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base that was scheduled to lift off Thursday morning. However, an engine problem with one of the Falcon 9 rocket’s Merlin engines spoiled what would have been a double-day launch for SpaceX.

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The company is currently targeting to launch this mission on behalf of NASA no later than Friday, September 1, at 7:26 a.m. PDT (10:26 a.m. EDT, 1426 UTC). They have not yet provided an update on the status of the engine issue. Another Starlink mission is scheduled to arrive at the Cape on Sunday.

Weather could also hamper Thursday night’s Starlink launch from Florida. The 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station predicted there was only a 20 percent chance of favorable weather when the launch window opened.

These odds improve to 60 percent by the end of the window, which closes at 11:29 PM EDT (0329 UTC on September 1). There are five backup opportunities during that window and another six the next day.

The booster supporting the Starlink 6-13 mission, tail number B1077, has previously flown six missions, including the Crew-5 mission. It will land in the Atlantic Ocean aboard SpaceX’s drone ship, “A Shortfall of Gravitas.”

SpaceX’s other Florida-based drone ship, Just Read the Instructions, pulled into Port Canaveral earlier today after taking refuge in the Bahamas as Hurricane Idalia passed through Florida and up the East Coast.