US Space Force happy with Musk’s rockets
June 30, 2020
SpaceX is due to carry out the launch of a military satellites for the US Space Force on June 30th.
The launch is pretty routine for SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket, but despite having carried out 86 similar launches (and which included returning 47 to either solid ground or one of Elon Musk’s floating landing barges) this will be the first time that the US military is happy that Musk returns the booster rocket back to base.
Indeed, as industry magazine Space News points out, the launch will be the very first time that a military satellite has been allowed to be launched and where the rocket can be returned.
The mission is to launch a GPS satellite from Cape Canaveral. Bringing the rocket back to base has saved the US Space Force “several millions” off the price of the launch. SpaceX has put a GPS satellite into its target Medium Earth Orbit before back in December 2018 but at that time the client insisted that the rocket used was wholly expendable.
The SpaceX flight will use an all-new rocket that has not been flown – or ‘flight proven’ – before. The landing attempt for the military launch will be aboard the ‘Just Read The Instructions’ barge.
SpaceX is contracted by the US Space Force to launch three more GPS craft over the next two years.
But just a few miles away another SpaceX rocket is waiting for good weather. The much-postponed Starlink-9 launch will be next to orbit, and carrying 57 of Musk’s satellites. On June 28th Musk’s second landing barge ‘Of Course I still Love You’ was being towed towards its home base of Port Canaveral, suggesting that it will be a few more days before the latest batch of Starlink’s go into orbit.
Incidentally, had the launch taken place last week as intended it would have been the first time that the Falcon 9 team had managed 4 launches in a single month.
That record for any launch company will have to wait until July when again 4 launches are scheduled. Starlink-9, Anasis-11 (built by Airbus for South Korea) and Saocom-1B (an Earth observation craft for Argentina) as well as Starlink’s 10th batch of satellites.