SpaceX prepares fourth Falcon 9 booster for tenth launch and landing [webcast]

to update: SpaceX has postponed the 10th launch of Starlink 4-6 and Falcon 9 B1060 and landing until 7:04 pm EDT, Tuesday January 18 (00:04 UTC January 19) for “better weather conditions for takeoff and improved recovery.”

Four days after Falcon 9 B1058 became SpaceX’s third thruster to complete ten orbital-class launches, the company will repeat the feat for the fourth time.

Unofficially disclosed via Air and Naval Safety Alerts on January 12, SpaceX confirmed its plans to launch Starlink 4-6 — another batch of 49 laser-connected V1.5 satellites — no later than (NET) 7:26 PM EST. Monday, Jan 17 (00:26 UTC Jan 18) from Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A. The plates themselves support an identical launch (Starlink 4-5) on January 6, which requires a fast turnaround of 11 days for the launch of two Falcon missiles all the time in 10 days.

While other Starlink launches are technically “only”, the mission will mark the first time the Falcon 9 booster has been launched for the tenth time in a row. On January 13, Falcon 9 B1058 helped send 105 small flight-sharing satellites into orbit, completing Tenth successful launch and landing in operation. While only two of the other 10 flight boosters can compare, the B1058 hit the milestone more than a third faster than its brethren, firing ten times in 19 months or once every 59 days during its lifetime.

Successful landing of Falcon 9 B1058, 13 January. (SpasiX)

When the Falcon 9 B1060 launches with Starlink 4-6 on January 17, 2022, it will do so in 18 months (~81 weeks), beating the B1058’s old record (19 months or ~85 weeks) by about a month. While there are several younger, less-flying thrusters in SpaceX’s current Falcon fleet, nothing seems to be on the right track other than slightly beating or matching the records set by the B1058 and B1060. Based on SpaceX’s record twice Falcon 9 transformation achieved twice in 27 days, it’s possible Technically The booster alone was able to complete 10 launches in just 270 days (~39 weeks), and employees have described this record change as a “crazy rush” — perhaps not a sustainable pace for the current workforce, in other words.

However, even if evidence continues to grow that the current Falcon Block 5 amplifier frequency is unlikely to average more than one launch every 50-60 days over its lifetime, SpaceX could theoretically still hit an attractive launch rhythm. For example, if SpaceX’s fleet of nine Falcon boosters is currently operational (including one Falcon Heavy Core Conversion) can each achieve an average of one launch every 60 days from now on, and SpaceX can launch more than once a week or roughly 54 times a year. If SpaceX also converts Falcon Heavy core B1053 to Falcon 9, damaged Falcon 9 B1069 boosters can enter the fleet, average response time drops to 50 days, this fleet of 11 boosters can support up to 80 launches in a year.

SpaceX has at least six new Falcon Heavy cores and a new Falcon 9 booster almost ready for a 2022 launch. The company won’t slow down production, so another 5+ can be built and qualified before the end of 2022. (US Air Force – Alex Presser)
B1053 will likely join B1053 and will also be a Falcon 9 booster. (Richard Engel)

SpaceX’s three Falcon launch pads could theoretically support up to 90 launches per year if each individual shift was as fast as each launch record and no extended downtime was required. In other words, although the extent to which Falcon Block 5’s design seems far from CEO Elon Musk’s dream of being reused every day, a fleet of 15 Block 5 boosters averaging 60 days per launch could hit an annual cadence that will force SpaceX to upgrade its launch pad to climb. to the next level.

With Starship on the horizon, it’s no longer clear that SpaceX really is want To push the Falcon Family Envelope to the point where it takes another round of important car or pillow upgrades. Unless Starship suffers a major setback that causes years of delay, the Falcon family will likely peak at around 60 launches per year (still very impressive) before possibly retiring.

Watch around 7:10 p.m. EDT (00:10 UTC) to watch the 10th Falcon 9 B1060 launch and attempt to land live.

SpaceX prepares fourth Falcon 9 booster for tenth launch and landing [webcast]

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