SpaceX aims to set a new record for rocket reuse Saturday with the launch of a Falcon 9 booster from California on an 11th trip to space, carrying more Starlink internet satellites into orbit. If schedules hold, another Falcon 9 will blast off from Florida’s Space Coast about 18-and-a-half hours later with an all-electric Turkish data relay spacecraft.
The launch double-header will begin with a blastoff scheduled for 4:24 a.m. EST (1:24 a.m. PST; 0924 GMT) Saturday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, carrying 52 more satellites into orbit for SpaceX’s Starlink internet network.
SpaceX has a backup launch opportunity available at 7:41 a.m. EST (4:41 a.m. EST; 1241 GMT) for the mission, named Starlink 4-4 in the company’s launch schedule.
There is a 100% chance of good weather for a predawn launch Saturday at Vandenberg, with unrestricted visibility, north winds of 6 to 9 mph, and a temperature of 40 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Space Force forecast team at the California spaceport.
The Falcon 9 will arc downrange from Space Launch Complex 4-East, clearing the shoreline within a couple of minutes as it exceeds the speed of sound. Two-and-a-half minutes after blastoff, the Falcon 9’s 15-story booster will detach and begin a descent back to Earth, re-entering the atmosphere to target a drone ship parked in the Pacific Ocean about 400 miles (650 kilometers) from Vandenberg.
The upper stage, meanwhile, will accelerate the stack of 52 flat-panel Starlink internet satellites into orbit, positioning the payloads for deployment at T+plus 15 minutes, 36 seconds to complete the Starlink 4-4 launch sequence, according to a mission timeline released by SpaceX.
The mission will target an elliptical, or egg-shaped, transfer orbit stretching 212 miles (341 kilometers) above Earth at its apogee, or highest point.
The launch will be the 33rd dedicated flight for SpaceX’s Starlink internet network, and the second dedicated Starlink launch from Vandenberg.
The booster assigned to Saturday morning’s flight is designated B1051 in SpaceX’s inventory. It will make its 11th flight to space and back since debuting in March 2019 with the launch of the unpiloted test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Since then, the booster launched Canada’s Radarsat Constellation Mission, SiriusXM’s SXM 7 radio broadcasting satellite, and seven of SpaceX’s previous 32 dedicated Starlink missions. It most recently launched May 9 from Cape Canaveral, and its landing on a drone ship is posted below.
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