SpaceX is counting down to what could be a rocket launch hat-trick this weekend.
The private space company plans to launch three rockets from three different launch pads in three days starting Friday (June 17), when SpaceX will launch 53 Starlink Internet satellites into orbit from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Saturday morning follows a launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California to orbit a radar satellite for the German military, and the third mission returns to Florida to launch a commercial communications satellite from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
If successful, the triple-play launch could be SpaceX’s tightest back-to-back flights to date, having flown three missions earlier this year between January 31 and February 3. SpaceX also wants to set a new record with one of the flights.
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The Falcon 9 rocket launched during Friday’s mission, dubbed Starlink 4-19, will make its 13th flight — the most of any Falcon 9 — when launched from Pad 39A. The launch is set for 12:08 a.m. EDT (1608 GMT). The Falcon 9’s first stage has flown nine Starlink missions and four commercial flights, SpaceX said in a mission statement (opens in new tab)†
When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the latest version of his workhorse, Falcon 9, the Block 5 variant, he said the booster was designed to fly up to 10 flights. According to a June 10 report by Aviation Week (opens in new tab), the company now wants to fly Falcon 9 rockets at least 15 times before retiring. SpaceX currently has 21 Falcon rockets in its stable, the magazine reported.
Jessica Jensen, SpaceX vice president of customer operations and integration, told Aviation Week’s Irene Klotz (opens in new tab) that Falcon 9 flight components are now tested to four times their fatigue life for 15 missions.
If Friday’s launch goes smoothly, SpaceX will look to its launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California to launch SARah 1, a synthetic-aperture radar satellite for the German military, built by Airbus. The launch is scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) on Saturday (June 18).
“SARah is a new operational reconnaissance system consisting of several satellites and a ground segment, which was developed on behalf of the German Bundeswehr,” Airbus said in a statement. (opens in new tab)† “As the successor system, it replaces the SAR-Lupe system currently in use and offers significantly improved capabilities and system performance.”
Once SARah 1 is in orbit, SpaceX’s focus will return to Florida, where the company hopes to launch the Globalstar FM15 communications satellite for Globalstar, according to Spaceflight Now (opens in new tab)† That mission will lift off from SpaceX’s platform at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Sunday, June 19 at 12:30 PM EDT (0430 GMT).
Globalstar FM15 is a backup satellite for Globalstar’s messaging and data relay satellite network, Spaceflight Now reports (opens in new tab)†
You can check out all three of SpaceX’s upcoming launches on Space.com during the launch. SpaceX is expected to offer live webcasts about 10 minutes before launch.