SpaceX will test the limits of its reusable Falcon 9 rocket Sunday evening when it launches the Booster on its record-breaking 16th flight.
The Booster, tail number 1058, made a historic launch on May 20, 2020, carrying the first astronauts to ride aboard the Falcon 9 aboard the Crew Dragon Capsule Endeavour. The first stage is distinctive on the SpaceX spacecraft as it is the only one to display NASA’s red ‘worm’ logo. It went on to fly 14 more times, including the launch of South Korea’s Anasis 2 military communications satellite, a cargo shuttle to the space station, two cargo sharing missions and 10 Starlink satellites. With 15 completed flights, it is the joint leader of the fleet with booster 1060.
Initially, the company hopes to use the Falcon 9 each first stage 10 times.
“We got to 10 [flights] And the vehicle still looks really good, so we started trying to qualify for 15,” Jon Edwards, SpaceX’s vice president of Falcon launch vehicles and Falcon engineering, told the trade newspaper Aviation Week & Space Technology in an interview last year.
Now SpaceX is pushing the envelope even further by going beyond the previous limit of 15 flights. It has been more than 200 days since booster 1058 last flew. During that time it is likely that SpaceX has been conducting extensive inspections and upgrades to clear the rocket for additional launches.
For its 16th ride into space, booster 1058 will carry 22 second-generation Starlink ‘V2 mini’ satellites into orbit, on mission designation Starlink 6-5.
After lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, it will head east. South, aimed at an orbit inclined at 43 degrees to the equator.
Two burns of the second stage will have to place the satellite into the required orbit 323 by 315 km.
It will be the fifth launch of the so-called V2 mini satellite, which is larger and has four times the bandwidth of its predecessor.
In early May, SpaceX announced that it had 1.5 million Starlink subscribers. Internet service is available in more than 56 countries.
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