Under the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), companies must submit an application for permission to communicate with their rocket for each launch. While a major annoyance and an undeniably Clooney process for those companies, the “Special Temporary Authority for Communications” (STAS) is one of those applications that allow members of the public to independently monitor and forecast US launch activities can do. For SpaceX, the company typically applies multiple STAs for each launch, including specific applications for booster launches, landings and preflight ground tests.
Different STAs can be combined with a single “mission number”, SpaceX connects with each, while the coordinates include specifying the area of landing communication (ie, drone ship recovery zone), often the mission’s trajectory. It shows. Combined, STAS can often be used to identify precise missions (ie. A Starlink launch, crew dragon, etc.). STAs for SpaceX’s upcoming Crew Drew Crew-1 and Cargo Dragon CRS-21 missions, as well as several Starlinks, have already been identified.
Due to inclement weather and a flurry of ULA delays, SpaceX’s October performance is currently packed with three Starlink missions, a GPS III satellite launch for the US Army, and Cruise Dragon’s first operational astronaut mission, the International Space Station (ISS) has gone. Barring a miracle, ULA’s latest Delta IV heavy launch delay has pushed SpaceX’s GPS III SV04 mission to 1 October.
This year Starlink-12 – SpaceX’s 11th Starlink mission and 13th overall – is temporarily set to follow GPS III SV04 on October 1 at 9:17 am EDT (13:17 UTC). Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 are scheduled to launch before the end of mid-October. Finally, SpaceX and NASA crew are in the final stages of preparations for Drew’s Crew-1 mission – the first operation of the astronauts of the spacecraft to the ISS – as soon as October 31 (Halloween).
A new Sirius XM radio satellite (SXM-7) may launch on 6 November on the Falcon 9 rocket. From June 2019, West Coast, SpaceX’s first California mission may launch on November 10. SpaceX and NASA are also targeting the launch debut of an advanced cargo Dragon 2, known as the Net-15, known as the CRS-21. Last but certainly not least, Turkey’s Turkat 5A communications satellite may launch as early as 31 November. Currently no Starlink mission is scheduled in November, but it is safe to assume that there will be at least one or two. In total, SpaceX already has five launches in October and four sets for November. Undeniably prolific, SpaceX has never launched more than three times a month.
Now, on top of that oath of firm launch, the mysterious “SpaceX Mission 1512” has joined the fray. Based on an FCC STA request, Mission 3 (with a six-month window) is scheduled to launch before NET (3 October) and will include a return-to-launch-site (RTLS) Falcon 9 booster landing. The RTLS landing specifically disrupts the mission and means – right off the bat – that it may not be for Starlink, while the cargo Dragon CRS-21 (an RTLS landing STA already exists) and crew Dragon Crew-1 Out of. Drone ship landing). Simply put, an RTLS rules out every other launch beyond a rideshare mission scheduled in December after SpaceX launches in 2020, and SpaceX almost never files for STAS months.
This leaves some sort of undisclosed, mystery mission. Only once in the history of SpaceX has the company launched an undeclared one – to some unknown branch of the US military or espionage system. Known as Zuma and still steeped in secrecy, it follows an almost identical pattern, with only FCC launch and landing communication requests and rumors surfaced in 2017 before a January 2018 launch. Although Northrop Grumman was thrown under the bus for a failed payload adapter that could or would not ruin the satellite, no federal agency has taken credit for the mission – as far away as space Is strangely strange.
At the time, unofficial rumors published on Reddit contained that Zuma would only be one of several similar missions. The failure of the spring-like deployment mechanism and the loss of the spacecraft – believed to have cost one or several billion dollars – would be thrown into a ditch in those gears only hours after launch. Now, almost three years later and in the midst of an exceptionally busy period of several important launches, can SpaceX prepare for the Zuma-2?
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