Science

SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 launch set to end the longest gap between Falcon launches in two years

NASA has affirmed that SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 launch is currently scheduled to happen no sooner than 3:37 am EDT (07:37 UTC) on Saturday, August 28th.

Known as CRS-23, the cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is vital for two significant reasons. In particular, CRS-23 will mark SpaceX’s first-ever reuse of an updated Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft. At the same time, that reuse achievement will coincide with another when SpaceX crushes its internal record for orbital spacecraft turnaround later this month.

Second, almost certainly arousing a lot of shock for virtually everybody observing as a passive spectator, SpaceX’s last launch happened on June 30th – in the first half of 2021. One step eliminated from the mission’s technical specifics, CRS-23 will, as such, additionally be SpaceX’s first launch in just about two months – a gap not found in two years.

The last time SpaceX went at least two months between launches was in August 2019, when the organization required an over three-month hiatus for unknown reasons. Before that unexpected pause, the only other times in the last half-decade that SpaceX has quit launching for more than a handful of weeks was after cataclysmic Falcon 9 launch and static fire failures in June 2015 and September 2016 – the two of which required 4-6 months to recuperate from.

In other words, long gaps between SpaceX launches are both rare and, on average, against the organization’s will. Most recently, there were a few signs that the military-run Florida launch range was down for most of July 2021 to finish routine maintenance.

Nonetheless, each Boeing’s second uncrewed Starliner flight test following towards a mid-August launch before that mission was cleaned indefinitely, the range obviously resumed at some point earlier this month. After finishing a spectacular 20 orbital Falcon 9 launches in the first half of the year, however, the second half of 2021 has been exactly the opposite for SpaceX.

Given reports that CEO Elon Musk ordered a temporary mass-emigration of many SpaceX workers at different facilities to the organization’s Boca Chica, Texas “Starbase,” it’s conceivable that Musk is adequately forfeiting a sustained Starlink launch cadence to assist Starship’s path to orbit. Nonetheless, anything beyond the basic fact that SpaceX hasn’t launched since June 30th is speculation. At last, CRS-23 is on track to be SpaceX’s first orbital launch in 59 days.

Concerning CRS-23, the mission will see SpaceX reuse its upgraded Crew Dragon-inferred Cargo Dragon 2 rocket for the first time. Known as C208, the Dragon 2 capsule being referred to appeared in December 2020 and securely got back from orbit to Earth just about 40 days after the fact on January 14th, 2021.

Presently, essentially as indicated by one of the traditional mission patches made for CRS-23, Cargo Dragon capsule C208 is scheduled to launch to orbit again under eight months after the fact – possibly smashing the record for Dragon capsule turnaround by 102 days (>30%).

At ~226 days from orbital reentry and splashdown to its next orbital launch, Dragon 2 capsule C208’s CRS-23 reuse will be twice just about as quick as the quickest Dragon 1 capsule reuse (418 days), exhibiting what SpaceX has depicted as huge enhancements in reusability.

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