January 31th at 6:11 PM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at CCSFS
The fourth launch this month from Cape Canaveral lifted off this evening for SpaceX. This also makes the company’s fourth launch and is now tied with the most launches they’ve ever done in a single month; the plan was to bring the total for this month up to five launches, but the slew of scrubs for CSG-2 caused the next Starlink to delay until February. Tonight’s launch comes after that blistering slew of scrubs the past several days. Originally slated to launch on January 27th a cold front approached the stated pushing foul enough weather over the Cape to cause delays three days in a row. On the fourth day the weather was a less than ten percent chance of a range violation and a few minutes before launch a cruise ship sailed into the exclusion zone, causing yet another scrub. This evening, the weather was that of yesterday and no rogue ships were present, and the launch was able to get off the ground.
Tonight’s mission also came just after official sunset, and with a RTLS (Return To Landing Site) in action spectators were treated to spectacular views of Falcon 9 B1052 soaring back over their heads as it landed successfully at LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. This is now two RTLS missions in a row, which is good considering that drone ship Just Read the Instructions is currently sitting at dock in port Canaveral undergoing an overhaul of its deck and systems. There is no telling how long it will be until we see her sail again but it’s expected to not be too long as SpaceX has a busy manifest this year and all ships will be needed for upcoming missions.
An interesting tidbit about this mission is that it’s the first B1052 has flown since June of 2019. Originally the booster has been a side booster for the Falcon Heavy rocket, and was recently converted into a regular Falcon 9 so that it’s able to keep flying missions since several Falcon Heavy customers are wanting only un-flown boosters for those missions. It’s also only ever flown RTLS missions for SpaceX as its two previous flights both returned it back to LZ-1.
Tonight’s mission was originally planed to launch with a VEGA-C rocket last year but the launcher development was impacted by the VV15 & VV17 failures, also the COVID-19 pandemic. VEGA-C’s maiden flight was delayed until the beginning of 2022 and the available time to get the satellite up was no longer going to work for the customer. They tried to switch over to another European launch provider but Ariane and Soyuz mission backlog is so filled up they could not get the launch done when needed in Europe. So this comes to why SpaceX was brought in.
CSG-2 (Constellation of Small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation) is a COSMO-SkyMed second generation satellite going up to replace the first gen system. The Earth observation program for the Italian Space Agency. This second constellation was reduced from four spacecraft to two while providing improved versions of the original design. They utilize an improved version of the Prima Bus satellite. These satellites will operate in the same circular sun-synchronous dawn/dusk orbit as the first generation satellites with a nominal altitude of 619 km at an inclination of 97.86 degrees.