First of two scheduled back-to-back Falcon 9 Starlink missions is launched by SpaceX
SpaceX is getting ready for a hectic last week of January. As the corporation is ready to launch a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station for the first time, two Starlink flights are scheduled to begin operations.
The Starlink 6-38 mission, which aims to launch 23 more satellites into low Earth orbit, is the first in line. The mission’s Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift off on Sunday, January 28 around 8:10 p.m. EST (0110 UTC).
Live coverage on Spaceflight Now will start around an hour before takeoff.
To launch this mission, SpaceX is requesting use of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. This will be the 167th launch overall and the 74th Falcon rocket launch from this pad (including nine Falcon Heavy rockets).
Having last flown in late November, the mission’s first stage booster, tail number B1062, will be making its eighteenth flight. It has so far supported ten Starlink launches, two crewed launches, and two GPS satellite launches.
B1062 is scheduled to land on the droneship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” around 8.5 minutes after takeoff. This will be the 267th landing of a Falcon 9 first stage booster overall and the 58th booster to land on this ship.
If Sunday’s launch goes well, the following statistics will be the most recent ones:
- 18th launch & landing of B1062
- 74th SpaceX launch from LC-39A
- 167th orbital launch from LC-39A
- 293rd Falcon 9 launch
- 58th landing on ASOG
- 267th Falcon 9 booster landing
- 6th orbital launch from Florida in 2024
- 8th SpaceX launch in 2024
- 19th orbital launch in 2024
In the event that Sunday night’s Starlink 6-38 mission launches successfully, Starlink 7-12 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, another Falcon 9 mission, will take off less than four hours later.
That mission is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at 6:16 p.m. PST (9:16 p.m. EST, 0216 UTC). It will increase the number of Starlinks in LEO by 22.
SpaceX, NASA, and Northrop Grumman are finalizing the arrangements for the launch of NG-20, the most recent cargo replenishment mission to the International Space Station, even as both missions are underway.
This is SpaceX’s first attempt to launch a Cygnus spacecraft. This is the first of three such missions that are scheduled to take place as Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace continue to develop the Antares 330 joint rocket.
Launching from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida will be the cargo flight.
In the midst of all of this, SpaceX is still providing assistance for Ax-3, the commercial astronaut mission, which is currently halfway through its two-week stay aboard the International Space Station. Next weekend, weather allowing, the four astronauts, commanded by Michael López-Alegría, are scheduled to board their Dragon spacecraft and return to Earth.