April 29th at 5:33 pm E.T. from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Just a little over two days after SpaceX sent four astronauts to orbit, they are now launch another batch of fifty-three Starlink satellites into space as well. Tonight, marks their twelfth launch from Cape Canaveral Florida, their hub of space flight as weather gave an 80% chance of acceptable conditions for the Falcon 9 to launch. Clearly those conditions were good enough as at 5:33 pm E.T. all nine of those Merlin 1D engines ignited sending Falcon and payload to orbit before deploying those satellites which now number 2,441 launched and 2,203 still at operational status.
Just Read the Instructions, the SpaceX autonomous drone ship was there on target to catch the descending first stage as it landed 629km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. Also supporting the 151st Falcon 9 launch was their offshore vessel Bob which scooped up the fairing halves after splashing into the water and then continuing to support JRTI in securing Falcon 9 B1062 to the deck as they’ve now had forty-three consecutive landings and traveling back to Port Canaveral.
Shockingly now SpaceX Falcon 9 has flown again just twenty-one days after its last mission, Axiom-1. This is a new record for the company as the previous fastest turn around was twenty-seven days. Tonight’s Starlink mission also marks the sixth launch and landing for B1062, it was first flown back in November of 202 for the GPS III SV04 mission, followed by GPS III SV05 mission two-hundred-twenty-four days later. Ninety-one days later it flew the crew of Inspiration-4 followed by a one-hundred-twelve day turn around for the Starlink 4-5 launch in January of this year. It was then ninety-two days until it launched its fifth time for that Axiom-1 mission. A considerable amount of time between each launch so it seems that the booster remains in good condition if they are now using it such a short time later. B1062 has now also tied the record for most humans flown to space at eight people, and also carried two separate Crew Dragons skyward as well, Resilience, and Endeavour. It’s now halfway to the current record holder for most flights, but possibly we will see it launch several more times in more rapid succession now that it’s clear they are ready to use it more.
SpaceX is aiming for a record sixty launches this year according to a tweet by CEO Elon Musk, that’s more than once a week, and with this being the third launch in just eight days I’d say they may just get there. Currently they are averaging one launch per week, but the cadence may continue to accelerate as the year continues as we know they are wanting to get up as many Starlink satellites as possible along with a vast number of commercial launches. To aid in this SpaceX currently uses three launch pads, two in Florida and one in California. With maintenance needed on each pad between launches these three will all be needed if they hope to reach that sixty-mission goal. Florida’s LC-39A and SLC-40 will make up the majority of the pads used by the company as this is not the eighty-fifth launch from SLC-40, and SLC-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base having had twenty-two Falcon 9 launches and LC-39A with forty-seven launches under its belt in SpaceX’s tenure there.
We are expecting a small reprieve from the launch cadence for the next week or so as it appears the next mission won’t launch until May 5th, when another batch of Starlink satellites will go up. From there we expect five or six launches for SpaceX in May. Boeing will once again try their hand to reach the ISS (International Space Station) when they launch the OFT-2 mission using a ULA Atlas V next month as well. They are currently targeting May 19th for that mission.