CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is preparing one of its veteran rockets to launch dozens of small satellites into space on Tuesday afternoon (June 29). You can watch the fiery action live online.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket flight is scheduled to take off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station here in Florida. Liftoff is expected during a one-hour window that opens at 2:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT). You can watch the launch action live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, or you can watch directly from SpaceX here about 15 minutes before liftoff.
Perched atop the 230-foot-tall (70 meters) launcher are dozens of satellites as part of a dedicated rideshare mission. This cosmic carpool, known as Transporter-2, will be deposited into a polar orbit — a rare launch trajectory for flights out of the Cape.
Sonic booms are expected to crackle overhead as the rocket will make a rare return to landing site (RTLS) landing. (Typically SpaceX prefers to land the majority of its rockets on the deck of one of its massive drone ships.)
Related: See the evolution of SpaceX’s rockets in pictures
Tuesday’s launch marks a potential global launch doubleheader as later in the evening, a Russian Progress cargo ship is slated to blast off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff is set for 7:57 p.m. EDT (2357 GMT).
That ship is packed with cargo and research supplies for the astronauts onboard the space station. After launching, it will dock with the International Space Station two days later, on July 1.
Today’s SpaceX Falcon 9 flight marks the 20th mission of the year for the company and the landing at the Cape since December. The veteran Falcon 9 starring in this mission will blast off on its 8th launch and landing attempt, carrying 88 small satellites into space as part of the company’s second dedicated rideshare mission.
Targeting Tuesday, June 29 for launch of Transporter-2. This mission will launch 88 spacecraft to orbit and more customer mass than SpaceX’s previous dedicated rideshare missionJune 25, 2021
The first, called Transporter-1, launched in January and set a new record for the number of satellites carried by a single rocket, with 143 tucked inside the rocket’s payload fairing.
This mission will not set any records, but according to SpaceX the payloads onboard have a combined mass that is greater than those on Transporter-1. Those payloads include satellites for the U.S. military, as well as Earth-observing satellites for companies based in Argentina and Finland, as well as a whole host of CubeSats from agencies around the world.
Following liftoff on Tuesday afternoon, the Transporter-2 Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage is expected to land on land at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 here at the Cape. If successful, it will mark the 89th recovery of a first-stage booster for SpaceX.
The company typically chooses to land its boosters on one of its massive drone ships, that’s because it takes less fuel to land at sea. However, for lighter missions (like this one) or missions that don’t go to a high-altitude orbit, the booster has enough fuel leftover to head back to terra firma.
“Falcon 9 will fly along Florida’s eastern coast, over the ocean and may be visible from the ground,” SpaceX said in a statement released on Monday. The statement also told local residents to be aware that the launch could produce sonic booms as the booster made its way back to the landing site.
“There is a possibility that residents may hear one or more sonic booms during the landing, but what residents experience will depend on weather and other conditions,” the advisory said.
This will be the 1st RTLS of the year and if successful, will mark the 20th touchdown of a first stage booster at SpaceX’s pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
The Falcon 9 rocket for the Transporter-2 launch is a seven-time flier known as B1060. This flight-proven veteran will embark on its eighth flight and, if all goes according to plan, will be able to stick its landing.
To date, B1060 has carried five different Starlink payloads, an upgraded GPS satellite for the U.S. Space Force, as well as a communications satellite for Turkey.
For its next mission, the veteran will serve as a kind of space Uber, delivering a group of small satellites into orbit as part of SpaceX’s rideshare program, which aims to help smaller satellites get into space by sharing a ride much like an Uber pool.
SpaceX announced the program in August 2020, offering rides on a Falcon for $1 million a pop to launch payloads weighing 440-lbs. (200 kilograms) on dedicated rideshare flights to a sun-synchronous orbit. The launch slots are booked through the company’s website and are offered at regular intervals, approximately 3-4 times per year.
Rideshares missions are old hat now for SpaceX as the company first kicked off its foray into carpools three years ago as a Falcon 9 ferried more than 60 satellites into space from its launch pad in California in 2018. That mission, dubbed SSO-A, delivered a small armada of satellites into low-Earth orbit through a carefully choreographed orbital ballet so that the satellites did not collide with one another.
Since then, SpaceX has ferried other payloads to space on some of its Starlink missions. Those missions included small CubeSat satellites for Planet and BlackSky. SpaceX’s third rideshare mission could happen in December if all goes according to plan.
Currently, weather forecasters predict an 80% chance of good conditions for the launch opportunity on Tuesday, with the only weather concerns being the potential for cumulus clouds and anvil clouds over the launch site. There is a backup launch time on Wednesday if need be. However, the launch conditions deteriorate slightly to just a 70% chance of good weather.
SpaceX’s newest contracted boat, HOS Briarwood, an orange and black vessel outfitted with a crane is the temporary fairing recovery vehicle. Right now, SpaceX’s fleet of Dragon recovery vessels is preparing for the return of the CRS-22 Cargo Dragon resupply ship, leaving the fairing retrieval to the new kid on the block.
HOS Briarwood has one successful recovery under its belt going into Tuesday’s mission and with any luck will continue its streak.
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