A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soared into clear skies over Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Saturday, completing a coast-to-coast flurry of launches 24 hours apart.
The 230-foot rocket, which took off from Launch Complex 40, carried 53 Starlink satellites at 4:40 p.m. EDT and, less than an hour later, carried them into low-Earth orbit. This marked the 47th launch for the Internet-beaming constellation.
It then launched Friday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California where another Falcon 9 propelled the 47th batch of Starlink satellites. In the past two days, SpaceX has put 106 Starlinks into orbit and pushed the constellation’s overall size closer and closer to 2,500 operational satellites.
Saturday’s Cape mission included a brand new booster, completed its maiden flight without any problems, and the Just Read the instruction drone landed onboard shortly after liftoff. It should return to Port Canaveral for renovation work early next week.
Looking ahead, Space Coast is in for a double header next week when the schedule is on hold.
In a first, another SpaceX Falcon 9 is set to launch Wednesday, May 18, the 48th batch of the company’s Starlink satellites from Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX has yet to confirm the existence of this mission, so details are scarce, but liftoff is expected between 4 p.m. and 6 a.m. EDT.
About 36 hours later, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is responsible for carrying Boeing’s Starliner capsule on its second demonstration mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff of the capsule from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral is expected at 6:54 p.m. EDT. It marks Boeing’s second attempt to reach the ISS without an uncrewed capsule after it failed to meet the 2019 test flight objectives and returned to the ground.
Both Boeing and SpaceX were selected by NASA to take astronauts to the ISS after the Space Shuttle program ended in mid-2011. SpaceX has carried five crew so far, while Boeing could make its first ferry before the end of this year if Thursday’s mission goes well.