SpaceX is preparing for one more double launch day,with back-to-back Falcon 9 rockets set to launch on Friday, just hours apart. The first launch, scheduled for 3:26 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will carry the latest batch of Starlink satellites into orbit. The second, scheduled for 7:38 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida,will deliver SES-18 & SES-19 telecommunications satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbit. SpaceX’s website will stream live both launches.
SpaceX upcoming Starship is a super-heavy-lift rocket & spacecraft, designed to carry immense cargo & numerous astronauts into deep space. It will be a crucial demonstration of hardware that NASA is depending on to get humans back on the moon in the next few years. Starship is intended to evolve into a fully reusable launch & landing system, designed for trips to the moon, Mars, & other destinations. Its reusability is “the holy grail of space”, according to Elon Musk, because it will make spaceflight more affordable for the average person.
Unlike NASA’s mega moon rocket, which flies on super-chilled liquid hydrogen & oxygen, Starship is fuelled with 10 million pounds of liquid methane & oxygen. The new fuel can be stored at more manageable temperatures than liquid hydrogen, meaning it does not need as much insulation & is less prone to leaks, a problem that often stymies NASA launches. SpaceX estimates its rocket also has about twice as much thrust.
NASA plans to use Starships to land astronauts on the moon during Artrem 3 & Artrem 4—two upcoming missions that could come as early as 2025 & 2027, respectively. The space agency has tapped SpaceX to develop a human landing system version of Starship under a $4 billion contract. As part of the deal, the company will need to demonstrate an unscrewed test flight to the moon beforehand. During Artrem3, Starship will transfer astronauts from NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the lunar South Pole & back. In the fourth mission, Starship is expected to dock as a moon-orbiting space station, the yet- to – be – built gateway ferry astronauts back & forth to the moon.
Friday’s launch of Starlink satellite will add 5.2 satellites to the company’s internet mega constellation, with the total number of Starlinks in orbit currently at3,751. SpaceX has already launched eight Sterling missions, so far this year,one of which delivered a miniature version of SpaceX’s next-generation satellite (V2Minis) that is designed to be bigger & more efficient than the first generation units.
Friday’s second launch of the day will carry SES-18 & SES-19, two telecommunications satellites built by Northrop Grumman & operated by a company in Luxembourg. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deploy the satellites to a geosynchronous transfer orbit, a trajectory to get the satellites from one orbit to another. SpaceX last performed back-to-back launches on February 17.