SpaceX Getting Ready for Double Falcon 9 Launch Tonight, Keeping an Eye on Weather – AmericaSpace

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Rare Falcon 9 scrub after engine ignitionRare Falcon 9 scrub after engine ignition
B1073 dramatically aborts at T-0 on 14 June, marking the first Falcon 9 pad abort after engine startup since October 2020. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

When ten days feel like a long time in politics, the same goes for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 flight operations. The company from Hawthorne, California is gearing up for two launches tonight – one for a commercial geostationary communications satellite from the Space Coast and another for the 44th Starlink batch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This will bring the total number of Starlink satellites launched this year to over 980 since January.

Starlink 10-1 from Titusville

With three Falcon 9 missions successfully completed inside June’s opening week—two from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., the third out of Vandenberg—the middle of the year seemed off to a flying start, following a successful May where SpaceX achieved 14 and 15 launches in a single month. However, the fourth mission of the month faced delays due to severe weather and experienced a rare pad abort at T-0 on June 14.

The booster for that flight, B1073, completed her 15th launch just last month and is one of the leading Falcon 9 fleet. After the T-0 scrub, the Starlink-laden flight was put on hold indefinitely with no set launch date, although it may happen later this week.Axion 2 launch2 3Axion 2 launch2 3

B1080 launches on her maiden voyage in May 2023 for Ax-2. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Elsewhere, on Monday SpaceX confirmed that two other missions would restart operations with launches planned less than six hours apart on Tuesday. First, an eight-time-used booster will deploy the heavyweight Astra 1P payload—SpaceX’s first launch of a member of the Astra satellite family—for Luxembourg-based SES from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station starting at 5:35 p.m. EDT.

Following that, a booster that has flown four times will launch from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg with a range of launch opportunities from 8 p.m. through midnight PDT. If there are any delays, both missions have backup windows for launch on Wednesday evening.

The Falcon 9 launched Ax-2 on 21 May, marking the first all-private space mission led by a woman. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.

However, the weather forecast for Astra 1P’s launch looks uncertain, with only a 55% chance of suitable conditions tonight. There is a risk of exceeding liftoff wind limits, the Cumulus Cloud Rule, and the Lightning Rule. The probability of favorable conditions is expected to decrease to 45% if the launch is postponed to Wednesday.

The current windy weather and low-level moisture, leading to cumulus clouds and isolated showers, are due to a prolonged onshore airflow, as reported by the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Space Force Base. Wind speeds could reach 25 mph (40 km/h) on the scheduled launch day, posing concerns for Liftoff Winds and Cumulus Cloud Rule violations.CRS 30 MECOCRS 30 MECO

B1080’s nine Merlin 1D+ exhaust plumes appear to flare radially, late in the CRS-30 ascent in March. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

Flying the Astra 1P mission will be B1080, a booster that started service in May of last year and carried out several missions, including launching Dragon Freedom and her Ax-2 crew to the International Space Station. It has also launched Starlink batches, the European Euclid observatory, and the CRS-30 Cargo Dragon mission.

The Astra-1P satellite, weighing 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms), has been manufactured by Thales Alenia Space for SES, a Luxembourg-based operator. It is considered the most powerful wide-beam satellite positioned at 19.2 degrees East longitude. Astra-1P is equipped with 80 Ku-band transponders, allowing it to broadcast up to 500 High Definition Television channels for broadcasters and content owners in Germany, Spain, and France over its 15-year operational life.Astra-1P and Astra-1Q satellite contracts for the 19.2-degrees-East location were given to Thales Alenia Space in November 2021. This location serves a significant number of households in Europe and has a high demand for high-definition content. The launch tonight marks the fourth large commercial geostationary payload launched in 2024. Previous launches include the Swedish Ovzon-3 broadband satellite in January, Indonesia’s Merah Putih-2 in February, and the Eutelsat 36D in March. This launch will be the 54th large geostationary communications satellite launched by Falcon 9 boosters for 20 countries since December 2013.An image showing B1080 descending for a touchdown after its CRS-30 launch can be seen here. The rocket will return to land on the Cape’s Landing Zone (LZ)-1. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

At its next launch, B1080 is expected to land on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), known as “Just Read the Instructions,” approximately 8.5 minutes after liftoff. The Astra-1P satellite will be deployed 34 minutes and 48 seconds into the flight to reach its designated geostationary orbit using its onboard electric propulsion system.

Also launching tonight is B1082, a newer addition to SpaceX’s booster fleet on the West Coast. It made its debut in January for the first U.S. orbital launch of the year and has completed three additional flights between February and May. These missions included delivering 83 Starlink satellites and the USSF-62 payload for the U.S. Space Force, marking the start of the Weather System Follow-on Microwave (WSF-M) satellite network for enhanced environmental monitoring from Sun-synchronous orbit.SpaceX is set to launch another Falcon 9 mission in the evening with a broad launch window extending from 8 p.m. to midnight PDT. This launch will mark the fifth Falcon 9 mission of the month and the total count of Starlink satellites launched this year will surpass 1,000. Since May 2019, SpaceX has successfully deployed more than 6,600 Starlink satellites into orbit.

The Starlink network provides high-speed internet services to over 70 countries across different continents including North and South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Recently, countries like Uruguay, Indonesia, Fiji, and Sierra Leone have joined the network, increasing the total number of nations and regions covered by Starlink to 79.

B1082, the spacecraft for the upcoming mission, is pictured at Vandenberg ahead of its inaugural launch on 3 January, with credit to SpaceX.The smaller V2 Mini satellites, first launched in February last year, have significantly greater bandwidth compared to older Starlink versions. They incorporate advanced technologies like more powerful phased-array antennas and E-Band for backhaul, enabling them to deliver four times more capacity per satellite. The V2 Minis are also equipped with new argon Hall thrusters for maneuvering in orbit.

In 2023, Brightline, a Florida-based intercity train service, became the first passenger rail company globally to use Starlink on its trains. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education in El Salvador started integrating Starlink into its schools to bridge the digital gap between urban and remote rural areas. Additionally, 50 Rwandan schools now have access to Starlink’s high-speed internet service. As of May, around three million users worldwide were registered or subscribed to Starlink.

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