SpaceX is counting down to what may be a rocket launch hat trick this weekend.
The private spaceflight company aims to launch three rockets from three different launch pads in three days starting on Friday (June 17), when SpaceX will loft 53 Starlink internet satellites into orbit from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A launch from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base will follow on Saturday morning to orbit a radar satellite for the German military, with the third mission returning to Florida to launch a commercial communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
If successful, the launch triple-play could mark the tightest back-to-back flights by SpaceX yet after the company flew three missions between Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 earlier this year. SpaceX is also aiming to set a new record with one of the flights.
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The Falcon 9 rocket launching on Friday’s mission, called Starlink 4-19, will make its 13th flight – the most of any Falcon 9 – when it launches from Pad 39A. Liftoff is set for 12:08 p.m. EDT (1608 GMT). The Falcon 9 first stage has flown nine Starlink missions and four commercial flights, SpaceX said in a mission description (opens in new tab).
When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company’s latest version of its 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 aims to fly Falcon 9 rockets at least 15 times before retiring them. SpaceX has 21 Falcon rockets in its stable currently, the magazine reported.
Jessica Jensen, SpaceX’s 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 up 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 remote sensing satellite for the German military built by Airbus. Liftoff is set 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 wrote in a statement (opens in new tab). “As the successor system, it replaces the SAR-Lupe system currently in service and offers significantly enhanced capabilities and system performance.”
Once SARah 1 is in orbit, SpaceX’s attention will swing back 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 pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 12:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT) on Sunday, June 19.
Globalstar FM15 is a spare satellite for Globalstar’s messaging and data relay satellite network, Spaceflight Now has reported (opens in new tab).
You’ll be able to watch all three of SpaceX’s upcoming launches on Space.com at launch time. SpaceX is expected to provide live webcasts beginning about 10 minutes before liftoff.