Today’s SpaceX launch marks 3rd Falcon 9 flight in 4 days
3 back-to-back SpaceX launches
SpaceX has been busy this week. It sent a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite to orbit yesterday, February 2, 2022, in the second of three Falcon 9 rocket launches over four days. The launch came just two days after SpaceX delivered an Italian Earth observation satellite called CSG-2 to orbit from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. And the company plans to launch 49 of its Starlink internet satellites today (February 3) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which is also on Florida’s Space Coast.
You can watch today’s Starlink launch on YouTube, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly on the company’s website. The webcast should begin about 15 minutes before liftoff, scheduled for 18:13 UTC (1:13 p.m. EST) on February 3.
Problems launching these payloads
So it looks like SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and company have been working hard. Previously, SpaceX had planned to do the NRO satellite and Starlink launches within less than two hours of one another, but both were pushed back a few days by poor weather. A Sunday evening attempt (January 30) was then scrubbed at the literal last minute due to a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that came too close to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The ship was Harmony of the Seas, the world’s third-largest cruise ship with 2,747 staterooms, a passenger capacity of 6,687 and a crew of 2,200. It veered into the exclusion zone along a Falcon 9 rocket’s flightpath just before the 6:11 p.m. EST launch on Sunday, forcing SpaceX to stand down from the mission. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating.
The Starlink launch has also been pushed back a few times and was set to happen Monday (January 31), but Sunday’s scrub appeared to have postponed it again to Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, as a groundhog in Pennsylvannia was seeing its shadow, it became clear the Starlink launch had to be pushed back to Wednesday one more time. And now it’s going up Thursday.
Further delays are always possible, and this launch itinerary could be shuffled again.
Next: Ax-1, Starship, Crew-4, and more
But when it does fly, the Starlink launch will mark SpaceX’s sixth launch of 2022. It’ll be the company’s 144th orbital launch overall and its 106th booster landing. And it’s far from the last launch on the horizon. Currently scheduled for March 31 is Ax-1, the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Also next month, SpaceX’s Starship could launch on its first orbital test flight from the company’s Starbase facility near the South Texas village of Boca Chica. Then, NASA and SpaceX will launch the Crew-4 mission to the ISS in April.
More will come later in the year to SpaceX’s constellation of nearly 2,000 operational satellites. The private company launched 989 satellites in 2021 alone. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has granted SpaceX permission to fly 12,000 satellites, and perhaps as many as 30,000 eventually.
Check back here for updates as the Starlink launch situation evolves!
Bottom line: SpaceX sent a U.S. satellite to orbit yesterday. The launch came just two days after SpaceX delivered an Italian satellite to orbit. And the company plans to launch 49 of its Starlink internet satellites today (February 3, 2022). If it does, it’ll be the third of three Falcon 9 rocket launches over four days.