The upgraded SpaceX drone ship heads for about 630 kilometers (~390 miles) of the Atlantic Ocean to support the Falcon 9’s next Starlink launch and landing.
SpaceX’s 11th Starlink launch will be the 12th (v1.0) launch and the 13th Starlink launch this year alone, together representing about 700 operational satellites in orbit. According to an interview with SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell in May 2020, these public beta tests can only begin after 14 Starlink launches have been completed, and according to a recent FCC filing, SpaceX will launch a v1.0 satellite from the operating set. We are only considering it as a part. In other words, if successful, Starlink-12 will leave SpaceX running only twice on a large enough (almost) set to begin beta testing of public internet services.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 rocket assigned to the mission will be on the verge of breaking SpaceX’s booster reuse turnaround record. Currently, the same booster assigned to Starlink-12 is set to 51 days between launches.
The SpaceX rocket, known as the Falcon booster 9 B1058, has become the first U.S. vehicle to launch astronauts since 2011, sending NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). After being successfully launched on May 30, the spacecraft anchored at the ISS roughly two days later and spent more than two months in orbit before returning to Earth in early August.
Meanwhile, the booster B1058 kept busy while the spacecraft it launched was orbiting. On July 20, the rocket broke Space X’s turnaround record when it launched South Korea’s ANASIS II communications satellite 51 days after Space X supported the first launch of the astronaut Crew Dragon. Although 51 days of turnaround time broke the previous record of 62 days for SpaceX, it took off NASA’s space shuttle to become the fastest reusable orbital-class rocket in my history.
Currently, the Falcon 9 B1058 will release Starlink-12 on Thursday September 17th (NET) before 2:17 pm EDT (UTC-4). Excluding the delay, it takes 59 days after the record second launch of the booster. When Starlink-12 launches on September 19th, the B1058 holds both SpaceX’s No. 1 and No. 2 turnaround records and will be technically flying 3 times within 110 days.
After Starlink-12, SpaceX plans to release the Starlink-13 at the end of September, and before September 30, it planned the launch of the third US military GPS III featuring the new Falcon 9 booster B1062. While unlikely, if everything stays on schedule, September 2020 could be the first four release months in SpaceX history.
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