SpaceX is facing a “sea of bad luck”. Two launches postponed in sequence prevented the company from breaking a record and could hurt its schedule of future launches. Meanwhile, a series of accidents, some spectacular, hinder the development of its next vehicle, the Starship.
The first launch that was canceled was Starlink-9, the ninth mission of the Starlink project for the construction of a satellite network that will offer broadband internet access to the entire planet. Scheduled for July 11 and canceled due to “unfavorable weather conditions”, it reportedly placed 57 Starlink satellites and two “hitchhikers”, terrestrial observation satellites developed by BlackSky.
Two days later, on July 13, it was the turn of Anasis-II to be canceled. The mission, scheduled for 6 pm on July 14, would put a South Korean military satellite in orbit. However, the launch was aborted due to the need to “inspect the second stage” of the Falcon 9 rocket, and replace components if necessary.
If both missions had taken place as scheduled, SpaceX would have been able to carry out four launches in the space of exactly 30 days, something unclear to the company. It has been trying to reduce the time needed for a rocket to be inspected, refueled and launched again (called a “turnaround”), something that is essential in its mission to make the cost of access to space cheaper.
The Falcon 9 B1058 rocket, returning to the SpaceX base after the launch of the Demo-2 mission. Photo: SpaceX
However, a record is still within reach. The B1058 rocket, which put astronauts in orbit on the Demo-2 mission, will be reused in the Anasis-II mission. If it launches before July 26, SpaceX will earn the “smallest turnaround” mark on an orbital rocket, a record that currently belongs to the Space Shuttle, operated by NASA.
SpaceX completed 11 launches in the first half of the year, and has another 16 scheduled for the second half. To meet this schedule, the company will have to maintain a pace of three launches per month throughout the rest of 2020, something that in the past has only managed to do for about 2 months.
The cancellations are something that caught the eye, to the point where Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX himself, explains what is happening in response to a tweet from the SpaceFlight Now website. According to him, the company is being “extra paranoid”, since ” maximize the likelihood of an essential successful launch. “
We’re being extra paranoid. Maximizing probability of successful launch is paramount.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 13, 2020
Meanwhile, SpaceX is preparing for the first flight test of a Starship prototype, the SN5. There is a lot of expectation around the test, as two previous prototypes exploded in pressurization tests (SN1 and SN3), another one caught fire (SN4) and another one was blown up on purpose (SN7).
According to rumors, the test flight could take place this Wednesday, July 15. The company’s expectation that the vehicle will reach 150 meters in height.
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