The Falcon 9 booster assigned for the first StarLink launch of New Year’s SpaceX became the world’s fastest reusable rocket on Monday, January 18.
Before 2020, SpaceX’s Block 5 booster turnaround record – referring to the time between two launches of the same rocket – occurred after being set by two Falcon heavy side boosters, as they made two of the rocket’s total three launches. Was supported in only 74 days. In mid-2018, a pre-Block 5 Falcon 9 booster technically pushed it a bit further, flying twice in 71 days. Impressively, the speed of reuse of SpaceX’s Falcon Block 5 booster remained firmly behind NASA’s Space Shuttle, the only operational orbital-orbit reusable rocket before the Falcon.
While already dramatically more cost-effective and labor-efficient than the space shuttle’s exceptionally involved refurbishment process, SpaceX’s installed turnaround time capabilities will begin to advance in 2020. In July, the inevitable happened when a Fault 9 was launched for the booster. For the second time in just 51 days, beating NASA’s longest-lived space shuttle record of 54 days.
The Falcon 9 booster B1060 achieved a 51-day turnaround feat only 51 months later, proving that the B1058’s record was no fluke. Finally, during 2020, each Falcon 9 booster – excluding turnaround outliers of more than 200 days – averaged ~ 85 days between launches.
Now, on the second day of the dozens of SpaceX launches planned in 2021, the company is set to finish the turnaround world record made by Falcon 9 less than six months ago. Originally scheduled to launch on January 17, SpaceX delayed the Starlink-16 (V1L16) mission to 8:45 AM EST (13:45 UTC), January 18, for unspecified reasons. Around the same time that the delay became apparent, Next SpaceFlight first reported that SpaceX had assigned the Falcon 9 booster B1051 for launch.
Last flown for the seventh time on 13 December, the Falcon 9B1051 is now scheduled to attempt 36 days after its eighth orbital-class launch and landing, beating the 51-day world record by nearly a third (~ 30%) And is also becoming the first Falcon booster to launch eight times. If successful, SpaceX’s Falcon rockets would only be days away from displaying monthly reusability.
Tune in tomorrow morning to catch SpaceX’s latest record-breaking rocket launch.