SpaceX gears up for tenth Falcon 9 launch in three months [webcast]

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SpaceX is scheduled to attempt its tenth orbital launch of 2021 – also Falcon 9’s two-dozenth dedicated Starlink mission – as early as 12:34 pm EDT (UTC-4) on Wednesday, April 7th.

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.

One of the two fairing halves pictured here on April 21st, 2020 will be flying for the fourth time on Starlink-23. (Richard Angle)
Mere weeks after its last launch, Falcon 9 B1058 is scheduled to support Starlink-23 – the booster’s seventh flight. (Richard Angle)

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.

SpaceX gears up for tenth Falcon 9 launch in three months [webcast]

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