June 30, 2020

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SpaceX launch of Space Force GPS satellite could break a record

SpaceX launch of Space Force GPS satellite could break a record
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, perched atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket, takes off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station.  SpaceX On Tuesday, SpaceX will attempt its third launch since its historic flight of NASA astronauts to…

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, perched atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, takes off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. 


SpaceX

On Tuesday, SpaceX will attempt its third launch since its historic flight of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station May 30, while also aiming for a Falcon 9 first. 

The planned mission to lift a new US Space Force GPS satellite to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket will be the company’s 11th launch of 2020. Continuing this near weekly pace of launches would allow Elon Musk’s commercial space startup to pretty easily set a company record for most launches in a year. 

It will also be the first time SpaceX attempts to land and recover its Falcon 9 rocket following the launch of a military satellite. The company launched another military GPS satellite in 2018, and at the time the US Air Force determined SpaceX would not be able to perform the needed flight trajectory and also land the first-stage booster, according to SpaceNews.

Since then, the company and the US military have negotiated changes in its GPS mission requirements and the cost of launch to allow for SpaceX to attempt landing its first stage after lofting the satellite on Tuesday. 

The launch window from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida opens at 12:55 p.m. PT (3:55 Florida time). Weather is 60% favorable for a launch on June 30, according to SpaceX.

More to come soon

SpaceX had also scheduled its second Starlink ride-share mission for last week, but the launch was ultimately postponed, and a new date for that blast-off has yet to be announced. 

“Team needed additional time for prelaunch checkouts, but Falcon 9 and the satellites are healthy,” SpaceX tweeted a couple of hours before the scheduled launch time Friday. 

Already postponed from Tuesday and Thursday, it will be the third in a series of Starlink missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Standing down from today’s Starlink mission; team needed additional time for pre-launch checkouts, but Falcon 9 and the satellites are healthy. Will announce new target launch date once confirmed on the Range

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 26, 2020

The latest string of missions started with its historic success sending NASA astronauts to orbit on May 30, followed by two Starlink launches in June.

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SpaceX had its most active year so far in 2018 with 21 launches and is now on pace to eclipse that mark in 2020, perhaps hitting 38 launches for the year total if all its plans pan out. The company hopes to continue packing its calendar with more lift-offs, aiming for 70 missions in 2023, according to a draft filing with the Federal Aviation Administration from earlier this year

Many of the launches will be Starlink missions, as SpaceX looks to put tens of thousands of its small satellites in orbit this decade. The company has begun conducting ride-share launches, making room for a few commercial payloads alongside a batch of Starlink birds. 

The next Starlink launch is set to be the second Starlink ride share, this time with two Earth-observing microsatellites for Black Sky, a company that provides high-def satellite imagery.

This would have been the third Starlink launch in June alone, bringing the size of the growing constellation to nearly 600 satellites and closer to the threshold of 800 flying routers that Musk has said would allow for some limited broadband service to begin.  


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