An unmanned ship from SpaceX is heading about 630 km (~ 390 mi) into the Atlantic Ocean to support the upcoming Falcon 9 launch and Starlink landing.
SpaceX’s 11th launch from Starlink this year alone, it will be the twelfth operational mission (version 1.0) and the thirteenth launch of Starlink overall, together representing about 700 global satellites in orbit. According to an interview in May 2020 with SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell, these public beta tests can only begin after 14 Starlink launches have been completed, while recent FCC files show that SpaceX is only considering v1.0 satellites as part of the constellation of operation. In other words, if Starlink-12 succeeds, it will leave SpaceX far from a constellation large enough – or nearly so – to start pilot tests of the public Internet service.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 mission rocket will be on the verge of breaking SpaceX’s booster reuse record – which is currently set at 51 days between launches by the same booster assigned to the Starlink-12.
SpaceX’s rocket, known as Falcon Booster 9 B1058, has become the first US vehicle to launch astronauts since 2011, sending NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. After a successful launch on May 30, the spacecraft docked at the International Space Station approximately two days later and spent more than two months in orbit before returning to Earth in early August.
Meanwhile, the booster B1058 remained engaged while its launched spacecraft passed its paces into orbit. On July 20, the missile broke SpaceX’s transformation record when it launched South Korea’s ANASIS II communications satellite after only 51 days supporting the launch of an astronaut Crew Dragon. While this 51-day transformation broke SpaceX’s previous record of 62 days, it also set a much higher record, canceling the NASA space shuttle as the fastest reusable orbital rocket ever.
As of now, the Falcon 9 B1058 Starlink-12 is scheduled to launch no later than (NET) 2:17 PM EST (UTC-4) on Thursday, September 17. Barring delays, that’s a 59-day shift from the record-breaking second launch. If Starlink-12 launches by September 19, the B1058 will be the proud holder of both SpaceX’s transformation records in 1st and 2nd place and it will have technically rolled over three times in ~ 110 days.
After Starlink-12, SpaceX aims to launch Starlink-13 in late September, and has scheduled its third US military GPS III launch – which features the new Falcon 9 booster B1062 – no later than (NET) on September 30th. Although it is unlikely, if everything remains on schedule, September 2020 could be the first launch month in SpaceX history.
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