Sunday, March 14, 2021

SpaceX One Launch Away From Falcon 9 Ten Flight Goal

We had a launch at 6:01AM this morning and I forgot!  It had nothing to do with the switch to DST, I just forgot the date!  I thought it was tomorrow morning.  

But that's not important. The news is that they launched another load of 60 Starlink satellites. This was the ninth flight of booster B1051, last flown on January 20th when she set the record of 8 flights.  She landed without incident on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love you.   

The mission also reused a fairing that was launched just 49 days ago on January 24th.  The turnaround time to reuse the fairing absolutely crushes the previous record – 87 days – by almost 60%.  As a reminder, they didn't reuse a fairing until 16 months ago so they're much less experienced at it.  They haven't been trying to recover fairings as long as they've been trying to recover and reuse boosters.  

If the inspection and checkout of B1051 go well, we could see the 10th flight in April.  As most of us are starting to suspect 10 might not be a magic number.  It was just last month that Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's VP of Build and Flight Reliability said that he didn't see any fundamental reason they couldn't keep flying. 

It may well be that they can be flown many more times.  I'm rather certain parts get replaced if need be now; that will just continue.  By the end of this calendar year, I think there will be several boosters at 10 or more flights.


  1. Get Eric Berger's book "Liftoff"...

  2. Truly reusable, reliable boosters are here.

    Never thought I'd see the day.....

  3. Amazing work by SpaceX.

    Absolutely amazing.

    As long as a component is within specs, no reason not to see how long you can use it.

  4. All our lives we've heard about how reliable space-level hardware was. Yet most of it was thrown after one use. One the one hand, we have the Voyagers 40 years into a 5 year mission. Every probe or rover the JPL has put onto Mars has far outlasted its planned life. On the other hand, every Delta, every Atlas, every Titan, of every model in all those cases, and every other booster from everywhere, has been thrown away after one use.

    "It has to be 100% reliable for as much as 8 minutes; after that we don't care."

  5. At what point do the people get a say on whether they want their skies cluttered by another 60 satellites - or another 20,000 satellites - or not? I suppose if I start to see a decrease in daytime solar panel power then I have cause to sue....

    1. That's the tricky question that shows up everywhere. If a ton of people decide to do something that detracts from the way you like the world, what can you do? They're already regulated. You could as the FCC to regulate them more. From what I hear the early adopters pretty much love the service so that's going to be difficult.

      Early in the project, in the first few launches, there was talk about the satellites being too bright and that the reflections were messing up astronomers, so SpaceX went on an R&D program to make the reflections dimmer. They seemed eager to help and by all accounts they did help. In the big picture sense, there is no way for them to dim a reflection enough so that big telescopes can't see them, but they're only visible under fairly limited conditions. They can only reflect when the sun is above the horizon up where they orbit and it's night on the surface. That's only the part of the night closest to sunrise and sunset. If you're in the arctic circle, though, that's going to be your entire night in July.

      I think that SpaceX has around 1,100 satellites in orbit now, and is working toward 12,000. There are also two (I think) other companies but they pay significantly more for launches so it's hard to think they'll put up more satellites than SpaceX does.

      How dense can they be? I'm going to wave my hands and say that the surface area of the earth is "just about the same" as the surface area of the shell those satellites orbit in. That's 197 million square miles. Lets say there are 50,000 satellites. That means there's one satellite every 3940 square miles - assuming they're evenly distributed. It seems hard to imagine there could be enough satellites to affect the output of solar panels.