SpaceX will attempt to launch and land two Falcon 9 rockets this weekend on either sides of America, setting up the the tightest launch schedule in the company’s history and offering the public a chance to view droneship landings, a historical achievement a little more than a year ago, twice in three days. If all goes well, it’ll be practically routine, which is exactly what SpaceX wants.
On Friday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch as early as 2:10 p.m. from from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to put a Bulgarian satellite into orbit. Here was the rocket on Friday morning, on the launchpad:
The first-stage booster of the above Falcon 9 will attempt to land upright on the deck of Of Course I Still Love You, a barge-turned autonomous landing deck, about 8-10 minutes or so after launch:
On Sunday, another commercial satellite launch (technically 10 new satellites part of Iridium’s NEXT communications network) will take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California, using a different Falcon 9. After sending off the sats, the rocket will flip end-over-end, high above the Earth, and attempt a landing on Just Read the Instructions, a different droneship in the Pacific:
Sunday’s Iridium satellite launch is scheduled for 1:25 p.m. Pacific.
The reason for the tight schedule? SpaceX engineers realized they needed to replace a valve on the nose cone of the payload fairing for the BulgariaSat-1 mission, which pushed the launch date from Monday to Friday.
SpaceX has been eager to ramp up its spaceflight schedule in order to accommodate more launches in a given month. The company has expressed hopes to be in a position to launch rockets every two to three weeks, and also get to a point where it can re-fly rocket inside 24 hours.
This weekend could be just the leap forward the company needs to prove it’s nearly there.
Watch both rocket launches via SpaceX’s in-house webcasts over at spacex.com/webcast.