SpaceX has added another Starlink launch to its October manifesto and plans to back the mission with a record-breaking Falcon 9 booster turnaround.
Multiple media outlets recently confirmed that SpaceX will attempt to target Starlink-13 – the 13th launch of operational v1.0 satellites and the 14th overall launch – at 8:25 am EDT (12:25 UTC) at the earliest Launch October 18th. Two days later, NASASpaceflight.com reports that SpaceX intends to launch Starlink-14 just three days later to launch NET on Wednesday, October 21 at 12:36 p.m. EDT (16:36 UTC).
At the same time, the eighth attempt by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the National Reconnaissance Office̵
The launch of NROL-44 from Delta IV Heavy, originally planned for June 2020, was postponed to August and finally landed on August 26th. So began a bizarre series of delays. Pad printing systems were responsible for the first delay on August 27th, followed by a rare abort after the ignition on August 29th. Such an abort is required for Delta IV Heavy at least Several weeks of rework and the next NROL 44 launch attempt took place on September 26th, only to be broken off by problems with the umbilical cord of the pad. The weather scrubbed another attempt on Sept. 28, while the subsequent fuse was canceled on Sept. 29 by a leak in a pad hydraulic system. Last but not least, Delta IV Heavy suffered another drop in the last second at T-7 seconds on September 30th.
Meanwhile, the ULA’s NROL-44 mission took precedence over range, which meant the U.S. Air Force wing, which is responsible for range security enforcement and weather forecasting, would delay all other missions until the The start of the ULA was either completed or significantly delayed. Combined with the temperamental weather, ULA’s range priority contributed to several delays in the launch of SpaceX Starlink and GPS III SV04 in September and early October. If SpaceX fails to launch Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 on time on October 18 and 21, then more than a day or two of delay will likely result in further delays when Delta IV Heavy takes the stage.
Regardless of the uncertainty of the schedule and the potential for delay, if SpaceX succeeds in Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 within the next two weeks, it will be the first time SpaceX has launched three Starlink missions in a month in two months to start. If the missions weren’t for Starlink, SpaceX would create the world’s second largest commercial satellite constellation in less than 30 days.
Additionally, NextSpaceflight.com reports that SpaceX has assigned the Falcon 9 booster B1060 to Starlink-14. If Starlink-14 launches on October 21st, B1060 will beat B1058 for the crown of the fastest booster turnaround, launching twice in just 48 days. Falcon 9 B1058 set the current world record when it defeated NASA’s space shuttle (54 days) with a 51-day turnaround earlier this year.
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