Friday, April 12, 2024

A Night to Keep my Eyes on the Skies

Next Spaceflight shows a Starlink launch (Group 6-49) scheduled for Friday evening at 9:40 PM EDT from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.  It has been in their schedule for a while. 

What I didn't know until this evening is that this will be the 20th flight of the booster, B1062, one of the fleet leaders after the untimely wreck of B1058 back in December. This will be the first attempt at a 20th flight for any Falcon 9 booster and it'll be worthwhile watching. B1062 has flown 19 times since its first flight in November 2020, and there are currently three other boosters that have flown 19 times.

Remember when they said they hoped to fly 10 times?

When SpaceX debuted the latest version of its Falcon 9 rocket, the Falcon 9 Block 5, officials said the reusable first stage could fly 10 times with minimal refurbishment and perhaps additional flights with a more extensive overhaul. Now, SpaceX is certifying Falcon 9 boosters for 40 flights.

At the risk of being a pedantic a-hole, I think that last sentence should read, "Now, SpaceX is expecting to certify Falcon 9 boosters for 40 flights."

This particular rocket has not undergone any extended maintenance or long-term grounding. It has flown an average of once every two months since debuting three-and-a-half years ago. So the 20-flight milestone SpaceX will achieve Friday night means this rocket has doubled its original design life and, at the same time, has reached the halfway point of its extended service life.

In its career, this booster has launched eight people and 530 spacecraft, mostly Starlinks. The rocket's first two flights launched GPS navigation satellites for the US military, then it launched two commercial human spaceflight missions with Dragon crew capsules. These were the all-private Inspiration4 mission and Axiom Mission 1, the first fully commercial crew flight to the International Space Station.

Booster 1062 launch, April 29, 2022. Also a Starlink launch, noteworthy for crushing their previous record for recycle time between flights.  Image credit: Richard Angle for Teslrati.

It has been a busy month for SpaceX - 12 days into it. Assuming it launches tonight, it will be the sixth Falcon 9 launch in less than eight days. Since last Friday, launches have included three Starlink flights, the first Bandwagon satellite ride sharing launch, and the launch of a US Space Force weather satellite from Vandenberg. Falcon 9 lifts roughly 80% of all the payloads launched around the world every year. 


  1. Under promise and over deliver. Now, if Musk would just stop tryin to predict when things will happen. His track record for that sucks.

  2. Something hard to forget when the executive from ULA commented, (barely hidden hostility), how the Falcons had to go 10 launches before proving the fitness of SpaceX's reusability engineering. First thought popped in my head was go SpaceX go!

  3. most remarkable aspect is the longevity of the engine turbines. phenomenal achievement, they have accomplished some truly serious materials engineering work. it shows further in the Raptor engines with their levels of crazy efficient combustion rates.

  4. Need I add that the launch was as clean and issue free as one could imagine?

    1. Of course not - this is SpaceX we're talking about.