SpaceX confirms busy Falcon 9 launch plans in January
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has been rolled out to Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A ahead of the company’s third Falcon 9 launch this month, as plans for two more missions – for a total of five – have crystallized.
A Spaceflight Now webcam captured the unknown, flight-proven Falcon 9 booster leaving Pad 39A’s main integration hangar with a new upper stage and payload fairing filled with 49 satellites on January 16. Weighing around 14.5 tons (~32,000 lbs), these 49 spacecraft make up SpaceX’s Starlink 4-6 mission, which will continue the deployment of “Group 4” – the second of two rounds of 1,584 satellites that make up two-thirds of the initial Constellation mission of 4408 satellites. SpaceX remains on track to launch Starlink 4-6 no earlier than (NET) 7:26 p.m. EST or 9:24 p.m. EST on Monday, January 17 (00:26/02:24 UTC January 18).
Drone A Shortfall Of Gravitas (ASOG) departed Port Canaveral for the booster recovery portion of Starlink 4-6 amid Falcon 9’s Transporter-3 launch and landing on January 13. Due to damage to the Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) drone “Octagrabber” booster recovery robot late last year, SpaceX appears to be prioritizing the use of ASOG at this time, which makes the company’s plans for five launches this month even harder to pull off.
In fact, chances are that if SpaceX manages five launches this month, it will only have been possible because two of those launches allowed Falcon 9 to make a return landing at the launch site. (RTLS), waiving the need for simultaneous operation of the two East Coast drones. The first, Transporter-3, was successfully completed on January 13. Following Starlink 4-6, SpaceX is scheduled to launch Italian space agency CSG-2 Earth observation satellite NET ~6:00 p.m. EST (23:00 UTC), January 27. The spacecraft is light enough and heading to a low enough orbit to allow another Falcon 9 RTLS booster landing.
Thanks to the rare occurrence of two RTLS launches in a month, SpaceX should be able to spin the ASOG drone past Starlink 4-6 and attempt to launch another batch of Starlink – Starlink 4-7 – NET satellites on January 29. Barring any delays, that means SpaceX has a good chance of completing five launches in January 2022. SpaceX launched five Falcon rockets in a month for the very first time in December 2021, so repeating that feat next month would be an accomplishment. impressive and good reason to believe that SpaceX might actually be able to launch 40, 50, or even 60 times in 2022.