Today, January 6th, SpaceX is due to launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets into a Low Earth orbit carrying 60 ‘Starlink’ satellites. The rocket was successfully test fired on January 4th.
SpaceX will have a floating barge down range in the Atlantic Ocean ready to provide a landing stage for the rocket. It will also have a couple of ships ready with giant nets deployed to capture the valuable rocket fairings, each worth a reported $6 million.
But this first launch of the new year is just the start of a heavy schedule for Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The company is planning another 3 launches this month alone, two of which will carry similar cargoes of Starlink satellites.
By the end of this month Musk could have 300 working satellites in space, and be adding another 1200 during the course of 2020. The process could see Starlink’s ‘broadband by satellite’ system brought into use, perhaps as early as this autumn’s notorious Hurricane Season for safety and rescue personnel involved.
There’s more. Also due in January is a test launch of Musk’s Dragon (unmanned) crew capsule craft, due later this week on January 11th. Musk has contracts in place with NASA to deliver human astronauts to the International Space Station later this year.
Back in 2018 Musk launched his rockets 21 times. Last year (2019) was a little slower with just 13 launches. This slowdown is being blamed on a lack of clients with satellites ready to launch and not helped by a definite downturn in commercial launch activity.
Also on SpaceX’s busy manifest is a longer test launch of Musk’s giant ‘Big Falcon Rocket Starship SN1 with Musk saying it will happen within the next two to three months. A test engine firing is scheduled today at 15.00pm (Texas) time.