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Known as Starlink-23 SpaceX’s 23rd dedicated launch of operational Starlink satellites and 24th operational launch overall will also mark the first time a Falcon 9 rocket lifts off under daylight since January 24th – a welcome reprieve after half a dozen late-night or early-morning Starlink launches. SpaceX will offer an official webcast of the launch as usual, with coverage beginning around 12:20 pm at the links below.
In what has rapidly become the company’s default, Starlink-23 will also continue to establish that SpaceX is on track for a record-breaking number of launches this year.
Encapsulating the mission’s stack of 60 Starlink v1.0 satellites to protect them from the environment and the aerothermal stresses of launch, one of Starlink-23’s two fairing halves will be flying for the fourth time – the second of its kind for rocket fairing reusability. The other fairing half supported one other Starlink mission prior to Wednesday’s launch, making it SpaceX’s 15th launch – and Falcon 9’s fifth consecutive launch – with a fully flight-proven payload fairing since the company first began reusing the carbon composite nosecones in November 2019.
Beneath Starlink-23’s flight-proven fairing and expendable second stage, SpaceX has assigned Falcon 9 booster B1058 to the launch. Barring delays, the historic rocket – famous for debuting in May 2020 on SpaceX’s inaugural ‘Demo-2’ astronaut launch – will narrowly miss beating SpaceX’s Falcon booster turnaround record (27d 4h) by a little over four hours. In other words, Starlink-23 will mark the second time in spaceflight history that a rocket booster has flown twice in less than four weeks and achieve that feat just two months after Falcon 9 B1060 became the first to do so.
Beyond individual feats of rocket reuse, Starlink-23 will also be SpaceX’s 10th orbital launch in three months – just 95 days into the new year. On average, that means that the company and its Falcon rockets are on track to complete nearly 40 orbital launches (~39) in 2021 – shy of CEO Elon Musk’s ambitious 48-launch target but still a major achievement if SpaceX can sustain its first-quarter cadence.
After Starlink-23, SpaceX is expected to enter a rare two-week stand-down as it turns its focus to Crew-2, Crew Dragon’s second operational astronaut launch. That mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than (NET) April 22nd.