SpaceX’s youngest Falcon 9 booster returns to port after second launch


SpaceX’s youngest flight-proven Falcon 9 booster has returned to port after its second successful launch in ten weeks, just before the shores of the destroyed payload fair two days earlier.

On June 30, the Falcon 9B1060 woke up for the first time, ultimately supporting SpaceX’s first operational US military satellite launch and completing the first successful booster landing after such a mission. Originally scheduled as early as August 29, the same boosters supported Starlink-11 on September 3, 64 days after the US Army launched the GPS III SV03 satellite. In doing so, the B1060 became the third Falcon 9 booster to launch twice in less than 70 days – all three examples this year.

On the fairing recovery front, SpaceX’s Starlink-11 mission was not nearly as fortunate. Recovery Ships Go Miss Tree and Go Miss Chief Falcon returned to Port Canaveral about 48 hours before the 9 boosters, but were in a pile of jagged heap rather than two intact ones.

SpaceX’s youngest flight-proven Falcon 9 booster has returned to port after its second launch in ten weeks. (Richard Engle)

While SpaceX will have to continue chasing the illusionary dual-fairing that it first tasted on July 20, any recovery – even if just fragments – should still produce valuable data that could be used in future recovery efforts. Can inform and help prevent a similar fate. Future fair. Aside from one side, the recovery also made for (mostly) a spectacular port retreat for empty ships.

Less than victorious – but still spectacular – return. (Richard Engle)

The success of the Falcon 9 Booster B1060’s second launch and landing in the ocean in 64 days is uneven, however. To support a combined commercial and Starlink launch rhythm as ambitious as SpaceX in 2020, a heavy reliance on booster reuse – especially with a focus on speed – was going to be a necessity. As a result of the unplanned loss of four Falcon Block 5 boosters between December 2018 and March 2020, SpaceX’s re-oriented decision to slow down first-stage production showed a rapid reduction in the company’s flightworth boosters fleet.

Thankfully, the launch of the Demo-2 astronaut launch of Crew Dragon and the said GPS III SV03 mission brought two new boosters – the B1058 and the B1060, resulting in the possibility of a booster flight. In college This is enough to support the lower limit of SpaceX’s 2020 launch ambitions. In late 2019 and early 2020, SpaceX executives revealed plans for anywhere from 24 to 36 launches this year – about two-thirds would be internal Starlink missions.

(Richard Engle)
(Richard Engle)
(Richard Engle)
(Richard Engle)

As permitted to land the first Falcon 9 booster after the operational National Security Space Launch (NSSL), the B1060 would be the right choice to support the reuse of the first booster during the US Air Force or National Reconnaissance Office launch. Like NASA’s first launch on the flight-proven Falcon 9, however, the Pathfinder qualification process will require 6+ months of inspection, review and repair. If not the first NSSL-sponsored reuse, the B1060 will be a major booster option for more conservative customers or higher-priced missions later this year or early next year.

Instead, barely two months after the start of its launch, SpaceX assigned the B1060 to launch the 12th batch of StarLink satellites, pushing the Internet planetarium to the 700-satellite mark. In simple terms, this move means that SpaceX is pushing as much to launch as often as possible this year. So far, SpaceX has launched 16 times over eight months, which is an average of two launches almost every month. If SpaceX continued that momentum, it would beat its current annual record of 21 launches with ~ 24. If the company has maintained its momentum in the last 90 days, it could complete 28 launches this year.

SpaceX’s September manifest certainly leans towards the latter option. In addition to two more Starlink missions scheduled in mid-September, the Falcon 9 booster B1062 is scheduled to begin with another GPS III satellite launch for the US Army. Another five commercial missions have possible launch targets in the fourth quarter, while it is safe to assume that SpaceX will continue to target at least two Starlink launches per month for the indefinite future. In total, SpaceX has at least 15 more missions that will likely be ready to launch before the end of the year – Falcon 9’s ever growing thirst.

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